Feature: Champion Down

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Feature: Champion Down

Champion returned to playing tennis, but it took three months after the accident.

Champion returned to playing tennis, but it took three months after the accident.

Champion returned to playing tennis, but it took three months after the accident.

Champion returned to playing tennis, but it took three months after the accident.

Charlotte McGuinness, Reporter

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Enjoying a typical, hot, Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2017, Walker Champion, a messy brownish-black, wavy haired, 16-year-old male, was fishing by himself in Lansford Canal. After finishing up, he starts his 1998’ cherry red, four door, Chevrolet Silverado truck. In his hometown, Lancaster, he knows his way around.

Lansford Canal, the combination of the State Park’s lush greenery and the flowing, cool, greenish water relaxed Champion, causing him to forget about the rest of the world, where as if it is on pause. Once you leave the canal, it is an immediate change from being at peace to now being back involved in the world.

Engineered and built by slaves in the 1800s, the state park has the Southeast’s last stand of rare spider lilies that cling to the rocks of the Catawba River. On the Catawba side of the canal, Champion fishes, enjoying Lansford.

Driving from Lansford Canal, Champion went on his way to his house of 6 years in Rock Hill. He lives near South Pointe, on the rural side of Rock Hill. He heads towards a two-lane road about a mile away from the canal in Lancaster. Continuing driving, paying no mind to the car speeding towards him, because they have a stop sign in their lane. Then the unexpected happened.

Champion was t-boned on the driver’s side by two older men after they ran a stop sign, crashing right into the front seat of Champion’s Silverado. As his life flashed before his eyes, Champion faded to black. His Silverado had been totaled, with him inside.

Unconscious, Champion still to this day only remembers waking up in the hospital confused and tired due to being knocked unconscious from the impact. At a younger age, Champion’s biggest fear was the Tar Monster, a character from Scooby Doo, but who would have thought that at 16 years old, Champion’s new biggest fear would be getting in a wreck.

Much like a helpless animal, Champion did not envision the accident happening. Concussed on the spot, Champion never observed the wreck coming, attaining the least damage as possible because of the lack of seeing the collision occurring, giving no time to tense up in fear.

“The wreck Sept. 4 of 2017, the day I will never forget. It all started when I was just fishing at Lansford Canal and then ‘boom’, suddenly I got smacked by a car. These two grandpas had smacked me at a stop sign. I couldn’t see anything I don’t even remember what happened but I just woke up and I was in the hospital and I was like bruh what,” said Champion.

From Sept. 4 to the 6, Champion was unconscious in Piedmont Medical Center. From Rock Hill, he got transported to Charlotte Medical Center for better treatment once he regained consciousness. He stayed in the hospital until Sept. 11. Following that, he stayed home for around two months.

Champion’s family was very distraught about the wreck. His parents had been loving and caring throughout his life. When his wreck occurred, throughout Champion’s conscious times, he says his mother cried a lot because she cared so much about him and his physical wellbeing. Champion has three siblings, one being a South Pointe alumni, Shelby Champion, who were all also very worried about Champion’s health.

“I couldn’t imagine what happened when I heard the news about Walker’s wreck and I was worried sick until I got to see him,” says Champion’s older sister, Shelby Champion.

Known as the “trouble magnet” by his grandmother, Champion was notorious for messing around and getting in trouble. In his sophomore year, Champion got kicked off of the South Pointe basketball team for many warnings of reckless driving by the coach of the junior varsity basketball team.

From his birthday, May 14, 2001, to Sept. 4, 2017, he has been known as the boy to watch out for. With having been pulled six times and an additional two wrecks with him in the driving seat, Champion has been in his share of accidents and had gotten his share of tickets.

 

With the knowledge of Champion’s trouble making schemes and his record of reckless driving, his wreck was not so much surprising rather as upsetting. Even his friend junior Strait Philbeck said, “I was not surprised about his wreck,” because of his past experiences with reckless driving.

After his wreck, his friends were also very sad and visited him, yet Champion does not remember the hospital visits from his friends and family because his consciousness went in and out through the entire experience. During the two months that Champion was not attending school, his friends missed him greatly and worried constantly about his physical stability.

One of his friends, sophomore Natalie Pack said, “I was very worried about Walker’s injuries and survival for a long time and I have never lost a friend before and I really did not want to start then. After Walker’s wreck, I am now more aware of my surroundings and I try to be the safest driver I can be.”

Normal victims would be terrified to drive after a wreck like this yet not learn from driving mistakes. Champion, not so much. Because the wreck was not his fault and he was not in control, he learned more from his mistakes instead of letting fear take over after because he says he can’t control wrecks when he is not in fault.

Champion had traumatic physical damage after the wreck including his unconsciousness, bruises on his brain and eyelids, and also forgetting how to walk.

Champion stated, “When I woke up in the hospital that day, with bruises above my eyelid and bruises in the brain, I’ve realized, I forgot how to walk. They told me to get up and walk around the room, and I was like alright. Right when I put my feet on the floor, I fell.”

With his concussion being so traumatic on his brain, he lost the memory of knowing how to walk.

Three nurses helped him up, and they dragged Champion across the hospital floor back into his bed, while his feet were dangling along the ground, trying to remember how to walk. After six hours, the motions of walking was reborn in his brain.

The recovery time and challenges really hit Champion after he had the struggles of learning how to walk again and catching up in school and tennis. It took around 4 months to fully recover from all the traumatic physical and emotional injuries Champion had to endure.

The older men that hit Champion totaled their car but did not get injured surprisingly.  They did not brake whenever they drove into Champion’s car. They seemed around the age of 60 years old but did not have to endure the physical or emotional pain Champion had to go through after the wreck and throughout school.

Almost missing a semester of school, having to catch up on everything on his own, and teaching himself things from calculus to teaching himself to walk right again.

Champion was a straight “A” student before his wreck and still holds that status at South Pointe, taking five advanced placement classes. Champion stated, “I have missed about a semester of school, of me just teaching myself, coming to half days, for a whole semester.”

With all of this work he had to make up, Champion said, “It took a lot of work, you know, I had to teach myself stuff, you know, and now I am pursuing my dream to be a cardiothoracic surgeon or a petroleum engineer.” In his five advanced placement courses, AP Calculus, AP chemistry, AP psychology, AP US history, and AP English, he is on the track he needs to be to go to Clemson University to pursue his career goals.

Along with academic responsibilities, Champion is a two-three sport athlete, playing tennis, sometimes basketball and also swimming. With athletic responsibilities, Champion had to train himself to regain the stamina sports require after getting better from his wreck.

Cleared at the end of January, he began to appreciate having a “valuable” brain and appreciating his life because the wreck could have gone horribly different resulting in worse injuries or even death.

Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2017, Walker Champion’s life changed forever. Car accidents are the number four cause of death in the world. There are about 6,000,000 car wrecks a year and are steadily increasing.

“I couldn’t see anything I don’t even remember what happened but I just woke up and I was in the hospital,” says Champion. This wreck impacted his life and many more but with the care he attained and love from all his friends and family, Champion is now good as new.