When Chris Scott slipped in the living room of his Harrisburg home, he hit his head and lay there unconscious for three days before he was found.
It was fall 2011. He was in a coma and on life support. He spent six weeks at Carolinas Medical Center–NorthEast in Concord before being transferred to CMC in Charlotte for three months.
Later, a judge declared the small-business owner incompetent to make daily decisions and made Scott’s mother his legal guardian.
Doctors never expected the father of three girls to recover, but gradually he did.
For the past year, the 47-year-old has been working on rehabilitation at the Harrisburg and West Cabarrus branches of the Cannon Memorial YMCA. He was given a partial scholarship through the Y’s Open Doors program and has become an unofficial spokesman for the Y.
Funded by the Y CARES annual support campaign – which ends in mid-April – the program provides financial assistance to kids, families and active older adults so they can use the Y’s facilities and services.
Originally from New Jersey, he’s lived in Harrisburg for 20 years. He started rehab in the pool with Jeremy Cawley, the aquatics director at the West Cabarrus branch. After building strength and coordination, he moved to the fitness room.
“We focus on spirit, mind and body,” said Cawley. “And, for Chris… he came to us with a broken spirit…. He was declared incompetent and, physically, he felt he was unable to be ‘normal.’ But through socialization, conversations with staff and through motivation, he’s kind of rebuilt himself.”
Without the help from the Y and its staff, Scott said, he might not have recovered.
‘Back to real life’
These days, he spends six to eight hours per day at the Y. He bikes 5 miles in about 15 minutes, works out for two hours, eats lunch and then rides another 5 miles. He said his activity level far exceeds where he was before the accident.
Scott also has started to transition back to “real life,” as a judge recently declared him competent again.
“It’s been a real emotional three weeks, because when you’re deemed incompetent, you’re pretty much done,” said Scott. “So, to hear a superior court judge say, ‘I can’t even believe you’re sitting here…’ – this is beyond a miracle that I’m sitting here and I have (my brain).”
He had a seizure a few weeks ago, after coming off some medication, but other than that, doctors have given him a clean bill of health.
“They’ve done EEGs, MRIs and blood tests every three days, and they said, ‘You’re like a million bucks. There’s nothing wrong with you,’ ” said Scott. “I’m beyond blessed is all I can say. To hear this from people… that are doctors and judges is just mind-numbing to me.”
Scott still has some difficulty processing daily life, but said he’s felt “normal” for months.
“If it wasn’t for the Y and everyone here, I honestly don’t know where I’d be,” said Scott. “Physically, emotionally – just everything – I don’t know where else I could’ve gone.…”
The Open Doors program gave him back his life, he said.
Telling success stories
“Y CARES, for us, is storytelling time, and he’s part of that story,” said Cawley. “We have a lot of success stories, but none to this magnitude. He’s a face that’s people recognize here. He’s worked his way throughout the building, so he’s got friends everywhere, and we’ve been telling his story.”
Changing names over the years, the Y CARES program has been a longstanding tradition at the Cannon Memorial YMCA system, which serves Cabarrus County and recently celebrated its 105th anniversary. The program gave out more than $300,000 in scholarships to 1,500 people in 2012.
Rhonda Poppen, development and marketing director at the Y, said the mission component of the YMCA is a driving force behind improving the community through its outreach efforts.
“I think sometimes as staff member, we have goals for what we’re doing.… But it’s easy to get caught up in the end result,” she said. “Then you meet someone like Chris, and it hits you right over the head why it is we’re all doing what we’re doing.
“There is a face behind everything we’re doing. And like so many other nonprofits, when you get busy it’s hard to see the forest for the trees … Chris is an incredible reminder, as are others, that there is a human element behind what we do.”
The Greater Charlotte Automobile Dealers Association recently donated $10,000 to support annual YMCA campaigns throughout Cabarrus County.
Scott was in the Y’s chapel when he saw a crowd of representatives with the “big rubber check.” He couldn’t resist thanking them and telling his story.
“If it wasn’t for you guys and the Open Doors program, how would a person like me even be able to afford to come here?” Scott said then. “I had to say something. How do I see this check coming through and not express my gratitude to these people?”
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less