Formerly Paralyzed Teen Returns to Track With Walker After Car Accident

Former high school track star Tre Lawson, 19, is determined to run again after being seriously injured in a car accident.

Tre Lawson, 19, is on a mission to run again — and hopefully inspire others in the process. 

The Macon, Georgia, athlete said he once was one of the top high school hurdlers in the U.S. and had been approached by recruiters about track scholarships to college.  

On June 11, 2017, he finished first in a meet and hopped in the car with some friends. He said he woke up in the hospital four weeks later. 

"The last thing I remember was racing my friends to the car because we were trying to fight to see who was going to get in the front seat," Lawson told "The next thing I know, I woke up in the hospital four weeks later after a coma, not being able to feel my legs." 

Lawson said the driver of the car he was in fell asleep and the car hurtled off the road and into a 30-foot ravine. Doctors told him he had serious spinal cord, head and abdominal injuries. But not being able to feel his legs was the hardest part, he remembers. 

"It was a huge depressing moment. I thought maybe this is the last time I'll be able to run again, my career is over. I was wondering if the coaches would still be interested in me even if I recover in due time," Lawson said. "Looking at the four walls of the hospital room, you become depressed really quickly." 

Lawson had already lost his oldest brother to a fatal car accident the year before. In his honor, he was determined to get better. 

He began rehabilitation at Shepherd Center, a hospital in Atlanta that specializes in helping people with spinal cord and brain injuries and other neuromuscular conditions. Seeing other people struggling to recover made Lawson appreciate what he was able to do, he said, and gave him a new perspective on life. So he has continued hitting the gym to strengthen his body so he one day won't need to use his wheelchair

He put that strength to the test earlier this week when he decided to get back on the track at his alma mater, Westside High School, with the help of a friend. 

"I went out there, and just the feeling of my feet being on the surface that I did so much extraordinary things — it's amazing and it just motivates me to hurry and get back faster," Lawson said. 

It took him more than 30 minutes to walk 200 meters, a distance he once covered in a matter of seconds, he said, but he is determined not to let it get him down. 

"I'm going to up it to try to get it where I walk the whole 400 meters and knock it down to 30 minutes and then 20 minutes and then 10 minutes. It's all a process," he said.

The road to recovery has also inspired Lawson to give back. He started an organization called Rolling Hope to raise money for other Shepherd Center patients, and he's studying early childhood special education at Fort Valley State University in Georgia. 

The video of Lawson walking on the track with his walker has inspired others, too. His advice is to focus on the positive, even when times are tough. 

"Don't put all of your energy inside of the negativity," he said. "Everything negative happens for a reason, and everything positive happens for a reason. Every day isn't a sunny day. You have to have rain in order to have a rainbow some days."