Senior year of high school is a stressful time for just about everybody. It’s a time just before many go off to college, the military, or join the work force. For many it marks their last time living with or even close to their parents, too.
Sean English’s senior year came with all the usual concerns, but there was another layer on top of that. At the end of English’s junior year, he was involved in a terrifying accident that would change his life as he knew it.
In April 2017, high school track star Sean English was in a car crash that cost him his leg and nearly cost his life.
In April 2017, Sean and his parents were making their way over to church in Detroit when they spotted a flipped-over car with six teenagers inside. They got out of their car and proceeded to walk over to help the teens.
They weren’t the only ones to get out and help though. Cynthia Ray, a lung doctor at a local hospital, had gotten out of her car to help as well. As they were assisting the teens, another car came speeding by, but the driver wasn’t there to help.
Under the influence of drugs and alcohol, a boy about the same age Sean lost control of his vehicle and crashed into the English family and Ray. Sean ended up losing his leg. Ray ended up losing her life. This moment would stick with Sean forever.
“I just remember sitting in the hospital room and hearing the news of Dr. Ray’s death,” he told Detroit Free Press.
“Every day I just remember her name and what she gave, which was the ultimate sacrifice—her life—to do what she was doing for a living, which was helping others. I always keep that in the back of my head.”
Having run track prior to the accident, Sean knew his life would never be the same. Still, he fought to make a speedy recovery, telling himself, “Sure, you could say I lost my leg, but you could also say I didn’t lose my life.”
Even after losing his leg, Sean was determined to keep running.
Sean’s recovery was grueling requiring six surgeries and rehab five times per week. Even still, he had amazing support from his family, friends, and new girlfriend.
Sean had made quite a name for himself on the track team at University of Detroit Jesuit High School prior to the incident. With that in mind, Sean knew that he would return to running some day.
On May 2, 2018, that day finally came. It had taken a while for Sean to get used to his new prosthetic limb but this was his moment to shine: one last 400-meter race before he graduated from high school.
Adorned with his father’s old high school jersey, Sean raced to the finish. He was in significant pain about halfway through the race and wasn’t sure if he was going to make it. Yet the cheers of his family and friends allowed him to push through until the end.
He hugged both his parents with a tear in his eye and told his father, “I did it.”
“For me to be out there meant the world to me,” he said. “And to do what I actually wanted to do, finish, meant even more.”
Since the accident, Sean has not only finished a race but also gone to prom and learned to forgive the young man behind the incident saying, “life is too short to hold grudges.”
“The accident I had completely reshaped my outlook on life. It strengthened my faith and me as a human being. I now cherish every moment,” he said. “I had a metamorphosis … And Dr. Cynthia Ray’s name now carries me along.
“The guilt that I would have had for the rest of my life if I had just driven by when I could have done something would have outweighed any physical pain that I’ve had to deal with.
“So I would rather do what I did, and lose my leg, than to live with that guilt … life can always be worse. You can go to your local hospital and see people in positions much worse than what you’re experiencing. So you should always remember to be grateful for that.”