It was an average Sunday afternoon on March, 25th 2012 for 20 year old Alan Huneycutt and his best friend Stephanie when they drove away from home and off the side of a mountain. She was killed on impact when the passenger side of the car slammed into a tree and halted their decent.
The young friends left Alan’s apartment that day on their way to the gym. Alan drove Stephanie in his Hyundai Tiburon and they swerved to avoid an oncoming car that looked like it might run the stop sign. Huneycutt responded defensively and lost control of the car as rolled it over the side of the mountain.
Alan was knocked unconscious and his first memory when he woke up, his injuries yet apparent, was the sweet smell and softness of Stephanie’s hair. Then the sound of a giant can opener and the remains of the car being peeled apart.
Just after arriving at the hospital, strapped to a board and in excruciating pain, his doctor reviewed the results of Alan’s MRI and said, “I’ve never seen these injuries in anyone alive.”
His back and ribs broken, with contusions on his lungs and along his entire spine and the heartbreaking news of his friends death, Alan and his family were given uncertain terms of his possible recovery. They worried that he might not fully recover or walk again.
But the damage to his body was little in comparison to the loss of his friend as he waited to be cleared for surgery, lying immobilized in a hospital bed until he was strong enough for his operation. He endured the physical pain while anguish consumed his thoughts. With the support of his family and friends, Alan underwent a procedure on March 31st, 2012 to have a jumped facet at his L4 through S1 vertebra repaired and fused and bone grafted from his hip.
After the surgery Alan went through therapy to learn how to walk again, starting with a walker and then a cane before he was able to walk unassisted. He continued his progress during outpatient therapy where his doctors anticipated he’d spend the next five months. He completed his treatment in two months, lost sixty pounds and spent several months in a back brace.
Two months after the surgery Alan began a relentless effort to regain normalcy in his life. He spent three to four hours a day in the gym in addition to physical therapy, working slowly with light weights to rebuild his strength and confidence. He worked through the pain and ignored stares from curious gym patrons as he fought to regain some semblance of his former self.
No matter what happens, you should never let anything hold you back. It’s still a constant struggle to push myself every day, but I know I have to because that’s who I am.
Cleared by his doctors and still focused on his recovery, Hunycutt started running 5k’s after his workouts and attributes his success to the support of a coworker who ran with him every day. After reading an article about Marine Veteran Alex Minsky and how he survived an IED explosion and the loss of his right leg, Alan set a new personal record on an 11 mile run.
Alan thought he might not walk again and hopes to run a half marathon in the coming months. He’s coping with losing his close friend and lives today in honor of her and to inspire others to do whatever it takes to triumph over adversity. Because, like many heroes today, he sees no other way to live.
There are some among us who have paid a great price to understand the true value of life. Champions like Alan Huneycutt who lives his life in defiance of the odds, in honor of his loss and because he understands that never giving up is what defines him.
Update: After this article, Alan joined Alex Minsky and the rest of the Manning Up team in Hawaii where they ran the Xterra half marathon with Team 2 End AIDS. Together, they contributed to the total $94,000 raised for charity in 2012.