Heart of Detroit: Drew Clayborn

Instead of self-pity, Clayborn sees his accident as an opportunity

DETROIT - Drew Clayborn was 15 when everything changed. An athlete and an actor, he tried a backflip for a school musical.

He woke up in the hospital, paralyzed with a spinal cord injury. But even then, there was something indomitable about Drew.

"I was writing an essay for English and my initial reaction was that I would have more time to write the essay," said Drew.

"You saw this as an opportunity to gain a little time for your homework?" joked Mitch Albom.

Since then, Drew's graduated, got into U of M, and is studying bioinformatics as well as Mandarin Chinese. Instead of self-pity, he sees his accident as an opportunity.

"One thing that I would like to do when I graduate is cure a major illness and just always want to help people," said Drew.

The Drew Crew is a group formed by Drew's family to help defray the enormous annual costs of his care – more than $40,000 a year. But he hopes things like his 5k run – which he recently finished himself – will be inspirational.

If you're wondering why he cares so much about others, Drew said, "Once you are in this situation, you are brought into more situations where you see other people that are in pain or hurting."

"Are you a more sensitive person as a result of this?" asked Albom.

"I think I was pretty sensitive before," joked Drew.

Drew, who does 4 hours of therapy a day, operates computers and his wheelchair with his mouth and special technology, but his smile is his most impressive accessory.

"You seem pretty happy," said Albom.

"I'd say so," Drew replied.

Although some people would find that strange, Drew said they just have to experience it.

"Experience all the love that is around them and I couldn't be unhappy. I know I am going to walk again one day," said Drew. "It is just a matter of when. Whether it is medicine or just a miracle I am confident I will walk again."

Drew says he believes in miracles.

"I do. I see them every day," he said.

You have a feeling you're seeing one when you look at Drew Clayborn. His body may be broken, but his spirit is intact, and it marches forward courageously in the heart of Detroit.

Heart of Detroit

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