Atlanta, GA,
09:52 AM

After sustaining a brain injury in a car crash, South Carolina man encourages high school students to make smart and safe decisions.

Andrew Waters hopes others will learn from his experience.

Whenever he goes to his gym, Andrew Waters, 28, spots a sticker on the front door: “Andrew 100%.”

It’s a reminder of the support he received from his hometown of Inman, South Carolina, after sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a car crash in 2013.

The doctor who treated Andrew while he was in a coma at the Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, said his prognosis ranged from “Andrew 100 percent” to “he never wakes up.”

Family and friends chose the best-case scenario as their rally cry as they raised emotional and financial support through a Facebook page, T-shirts and stickers plastered throughout the town of 2,200 residents.

Andrew now steps into his home gym as a certified personal trainer. He’s also a year away from earning an associate’s degree at a community college, with plans to get his bachelor’s degree in communications.

Meanwhile, he speaks at high schools about making smart decisions around cars. Fidgety students become captivated by his story: He rode to a bar with a friend. For the trip home, he got in the passenger seat, even though the driver was impaired. Then, the car flipped, breaking virtually every bone in Andrew’s face and leaving him unconscious.

A month later, Andrew arrived at Shepherd Center for treatment in its Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program. He relearned the basics – eating, sleeping, talking and walking. He can’t remember everything from his two-month stay at Shepherd Center, but he remains grateful for Shepherd Center’s warm environment.

“In that humongous hospital, it was like being home in a small town,” he says. “Everybody knows everybody. Everybody experiences the same thing.”

Before his accident, Andrew worked on a BMW assembly line and served in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He doesn’t do either now, and he still faces memory and cognitive challenges. But he’s more content than ever – affecting people’s lives as a motivational speaker and personal trainer. He sees his future as an ongoing journey.

“I’m never going to stop learning as long as I’m on this earth,” he says. “I know that the Lord has a plan for me.”

Written by Drew Jubera

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.