When a motorcycle accident left Corey Davis strapped to a hospital bed seven years ago, he began to lose hope for a recovery.
"This is it for the rest of my life," Davis, who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury that made him unable to walk, recalled thinking.
But after six months of treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital's Outpatient NeuroRehabilitation Program, he was back on his feet. Now the race director for Saturday's Ocean Games, an ocean sports event in Ocean City, Davis continues to give back to the program that helped him return to the active lifestyle he once thought was no longer possible.
It's the second year Davis, of Berlin, has organized an ocean sports event to raise money for the ONRP. Last summer, he held Swim Ocean City, an open-water swimming competition with 1-, 3- and 9-mile races along the shoreline. The event had almost 200 participants and raised $10,000 for the program.
Ocean Games will open with the return of Swim Ocean City and debut of the East Coast SUP CUP paddleboard races.
"I hope it brings awareness to everyone to let them know how prevalent brain injuries [are], whether severe or not," Davis said.
Davis has competed in triathlons and ocean events in the past, but his 2007 accident brought his life to a halt. He was in a coma for seven weeks, and memories of the crash and the previous six months were wiped out.
After doctors told him he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, Davis reached out to ONRP director Dr. Kate Kortte for help. He received mental and physical therapy, and since his treatment program, Davis has completed a sprint triathlon, a 100-mile bike ride and a 4.4-mile swim in the Chesapeake Bay. After each event, Davis donated to the ONRP.
"I watched this gentleman roll into my office in a wheelchair and just say, 'This is not it,'" Kortte said. "It's just inspiring to watch somebody drive for everything and anything just to get better and get back to life the way he wants to live it."
When Davis came up with the idea for his own swimming event two years ago, it was his chance to raise more money for the program than he had ever before. The ONRP used what he raised last year for new equipment, research and training programs for its physicians and therapists.
Franco Prezioso, a long-distance swimmer from Bel Air who finished third in the 9-mile race last summer, wasn't aware of Davis' injury when he registered for that race. Amazed by his recovery, Prezioso befriended Davis and was one of the first to sign up for this year's Ocean Games.
"He's made a heck of a comeback," Prezioso said. "He just makes you feel good about going and supporting something like this."
Although Davis has gone from a wheelchair to competing in a triathlon, signs of his brain injury still linger. Despite regaining a few of his lost memories, he still doesn't remember much from the accident or the preceding six months, and his speech remains slightly impaired.
But those difficulties only illustrate to Ocean Games participants what Davis has had to overcome. Davis hopes his story can continue to motivate people to come to the event, which has become his way of thanking Kortte and the ONRP for helping him get his life back to where it once was.
"I wanted to help her program," Davis said. "Anything I could [do] to assist, so they can help their patients better like they helped me."