13-year-old crash survivor walking, talking, defying devastating prognosis

Recovery was the only option Carter Wilbanks and his family considered

SAN ANTONIO – Spunky, resilient and tenacious are just three ways to describe 13-year-old Carter Wilbanks.

A car crash almost two years ago left him in a coma with a traumatic head injury, an aortic tear, an aneurysm, a torn spleen and two broken femurs.

Now, Carter's recovery is shocking doctors and inspiring other traumatic head injury patients, showing them what's possible.

"One morning we were in [the living room] and we heard a ch-ch-ch and I was like oh God what is that noise? And that little joker had his walker! He had drug himself out of his bed and grabbed his walker," Carter's mom, Tara Wilbanks, said. 

It was the first time he'd walked by himself in almost two years.

Overwhelmed with shock and pride, she watched the joyous expression on Carter's face, and listened to him laugh. 

She eyed him with the same glow Monday, as Carter practiced with his walker like he does every day now.

"Speedy Gonzales," Carter said slowly once he sat down on the couch to rest.

His mom and best friend knew he was being sarcastic.

"Yeah, you're kind of a slowpoke," she smiled.

Laughter and grit have never been absent from the Wilbanks home, even when things were at their worst.

Tara believes that perspective has pushed Carter to do what doctors said he never would. 

"They told us we needed to make preparations for long-term care, that the best outcome for Carter would probably be in a nursing facility for the rest of his life and nonverbal, not move because it was that severe. We told them, 'You just don't know our little boy, like he's kinda feisty,'" she said.

Mama knew best.

What did Carter do when a news reporter walked into his house to interview him? He asked her on a date, of course, giggling. 

Despite the jokes and the fun, the miracle is that he was even able to say those words. 

After waking up from the coma, Carter could only communicate by blinking. Now he's working with a speech therapist and improving every day.

He's back to his firecracker little self, and also his creative self. He's also drawing and writing, and even started a lawn mowing business with his dad. 

"He goes to school every day, he goes to therapy every single day, speech or OT or PT. He's a little worker and adversity has never been a problem for him," Tara said.

His commitment, attitude and perspective have fueled his mounting strength.

"OK you ready? You have to navigate the step," Tara said as Carter led his walker out the front door and down to the driveway.

Every step is filled with gratitude, determination and some sweet dance moves.
"No twerking!" Tara yelled through laughter. 

Carter knows pretty well by now that life should be a celebration.

As Carter continues therapy, Tara continues to communicate with thousands of people who reached out after the crash.

Many of them have loved ones with traumatic brain injuries and use the Wilbanks family as inspiration. 

Even country legend George Strait, who met Carter last year, checks in on him. 

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