Former star athlete triumphs after accident that left her paralyzed

By Deangelo Mcdaniel

The Decatur Daily

Published: Sunday, March 30 2014 9:43 a.m. MDT

Courtney Carpenter Boyll was a rising star athlete in 1994 when a car wreck left her paralyzed. Twenty years later she is a wife, mother of three and third grade teacher at Moulton Elementary in Alabama, and does it all as a paraplegic. Courtney works with students on their Number of the Day exercise. Beside her are students Cameron Purser and Amber Melson.

Decatur Daily, Gary Cosby Jr., Associated Press

DECATUR, Ala. — Pushing through the crowd of emergency responders, Royal Carpenter yelled frantically for his daughter, the teenager he often called "gym rat" at Hatton High where he coached.

She was lying on a gurney and he could hear her talking.

"Courtney! Courtney!" he screamed, with an urgency Courtney Carpenter had never heard from him before.

"Daddy," she responded softly, tears running down her face.

"What's wrong?" he asked, as paramedics stabilized her body for transport to a Florence hospital.

Neither will ever forget her response.

"I feel like I have been cut in half."

Winter's frost was yielding to the warmth of spring on March 16, 1994, when the life Courtney Carpenter had all planned out took a dramatic turn.

The high school sophomore, a talented multi-sport athlete who at the age of 16 already had six state championship rings, had been injured in a single-car accident.

Some were comparing her to Alabama's all-time greatest female athletes when she had that wreck, which left her paralyzed with a broken back between the fourth and fifth vertebrae.

In that instant, Courtney's dream of playing professional basketball was shattered.

In the years since, she has charted a new course. And lived a new dream.

For 20 years, Courtney Carpenter Boyll, 36, has spent most of her waking hours in a wheelchair. She insists she has harbored no regrets.

"God put me where I'm at for a reason, and I don't question His decision," she said sternly.

There are no pity parties. Never have been.

"I never heard her make an excuse, and her strength is amazing," former teammate and Moulton Elementary counselor LaDonna Cook said. "She does not cry out for help, and if you try to help her, she politely lets you know she's OK."

Work days for Courtney Carpenter Boyll start at 5 a.m., when Scott, her husband of 11 years, leaves for work at 3M in Decatur. She spends a few minutes reviewing her lesson plan for third-graders at Moulton Elementary before waking her three children, ages 3, 5 and 8.

As the kids eat breakfast — generally a bowl of cereal for the oldest two — she makes their beds.

Rolling her wheelchair from room to room, she reminds them to hurry, and occasionally officiates a sibling rivalry.

Her movement is non-stop until all have eaten, brushed their teeth and dressed.

There are moments of frustration, especially when the kids don't like what she had picked for them to wear or leave their book bags on the table.

"There's never a dull moment," she says as she opens the garage door.

Her father, now retired, sits with her youngest son on Mondays. A babysitter comes Tuesday through Friday.

When everyone gets to the car, she rolls down a ramp in the garage of the home she and Scott designed three years ago.

She circles the car to make sure their two school-age children are secure in their carseats.

Then, she rolls to the driver's side and uses the open door to lift herself from the wheelchair into the vehicle.

She disassembles the wheelchair, puts it in the passenger seat and leaves for school.

Her first priority after arriving at Moulton Elementary is to make sure her children make it in the building safely. She has to remind the kids, especially 5-year-old Jack, not to run into traffic.

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