"I was ready to go back to living the life I lived at first. So we started working…"
In October 2012, Cor’Rales Dupree, a high school football player in Richmond, paused in doing his homework to watch a story on ESPN about Jacob Rainey. Jacob, the star quarterback at Woodberry Forest School, had suffered a terrible injury during a scrimmage in 2011, and his right leg had been amputated at the knee. Cor’Rales remembers being deeply impressed by Rainey’s story.
When Cor’Rales woke up on Thanksgiving morning, he was a promising high school athlete. By the end of the day, his life had been irrevocably changed.
A seemingly trivial argument between his mother and her ex-boyfriend became a tragedy when he returned with a gun and fired through the family’s apartment door, severely injuring Cor’Rales’ left leg, and then entering to shoot his mother and 10 year old brother.
When Cor’Rales woke up in the hospital, he learned that his family had miraculously survived, but that the prognosis for his leg was poor. He underwent ten surgeries, and on December 4 of that year his left leg was amputated above the knee.
On Christmas Day, Jacob Rainey walked into Cor’Rales’ hospital room to offer support and some advice. Dupree recalls, “I couldn’t tell he was an amputee. I told him I wanted to be walking around like he was.” Jacob strongly suggested to Cor’Rales that he needed to work with the same people who had helped him recover his own mobility: David Lawrence and the rest of the team at the Gait Center in Richmond.
Cor’Rales took Jacob at his word, and showed up at the Gait Center immediately after being discharged from the hospital, IV pole still in hand. He didn’t want to hear about waiting until he had more fully recovered; he wanted to get started right away.
Dupree worked hard, and got the most out of the high-expectations approach of his physical therapy team. Not long after being fitted with his prosthesis, he was running football drills with David Lawrence and Jacob Rainey.
Always an athlete, Cor’Rales looked for opportunities to stay active and involved in team sports after therapy ended. He turned to Sportable in Richmond, VA, where he took up wheelchair basketball. He was quickly recruited by the Richmond Rim Riders, a professional team.
Cor’Rales did not limit his involvement to physical therapy sessions and sports, however. Motivated by his experiences, Cor’Rales began to mentor other young amputees both at home and at Camp No Limits in Connecticut. Even physical therapy students learn from him about the impact they can have with their own patients someday, as he shares his story with them about his injury and how physical therapy changed his life.
This year, Cor’Rales Dupree accepted a scholarship from Edinboro University. He plans to play wheelchair basketball and to continue his work of encouraging others by studying kinesiology and minoring in coaching, with the dream of someday becoming a physical therapist himself. His amazing journey from tragedy to achievement says a lot about his character and determination, and it also reflects the importance of an approach to physical therapy that meets patients where they are. For Cor’Rales, it was crucial that David and the other therapists saw him as an athlete in recovery, allowing him to aim high and work on the skills that were central to his identity and his goals.