Marks of Strength
ESPN The Magazine|July 9, 2018

A catastrophic accident took so much from Seth Hanchey, including his ability to speak. Weightlifting gave so much back: the motivation to recover, the drive to compete, the power to inspire. Here, his mother tells his story.

Kimber Hanchey, With Steve Wulf

My son, Seth, is a 24-year old massage therapist from Ruston, Louisiana, and he will be competing for Team Louisiana as a powerlifter in the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle. He has an amazing story to tell, but he can’t quite do that himself. He lost his ability to speak after suffering a traumatic brain injury on Sept. 28, 2011, when his bike was hit by a van while he was training for an Ironman triathlon. The accident was so bad that an EMT at the scene later told us he coded twice.

That’s right. Sept. 28, 2011, should’ve been the date on his tombstone. But he’s very much alive today, teaching, comforting and inspiring people with his deeds. Actually, his body can do a lot of the talking.

The first thing people notice about him is how big and strong he is, which still surprises me because he was a svelte but fit 17-year old before the accident. Now he can deadlift a 425-pound barbell. I call him Seth 2.0.

The second thing they notice are all the tattoos. As my husband, Charles, the bishop at the Power Church International in Monroe, likes to say, “It’s a story written in ink.”

IX XXVIII MMXI.

That’s the Roman numeral date of the accident, or what we refer to as Seth’s re-birthday. It’s at the top of his right arm, just above an angel with the word Invictus, meaning “unconquered.” Seth designed the tattoos himself. He wanted his first one when he was 16, but we thought he should wait until he was 18. Back then, he was a youth pastor with a love for rock climbing, dancing and laughter—he was in college to be a nurse just like his older sister Sierrah. He also inherited the gift of preaching from Charles. In fact, five months before the accident, he delivered his first sermon to our congregation.

On the day of the accident, Charles and I had been in Arkansas for my birthday and were heading back home. Seth told Sierrah that he was going for a 60-mile bike ride. When he didn’t return as he promised, she called his cellphone, and a state trooper answered and gave her the horrible news. An 81-year-old woman had hit him from behind and propelled him more than 50 yards onto the guardrail of a concrete bridge. He had been airlifted to the trauma center at LSU Hospital in Shreveport. When we arrived three hours later, we were told to prepare for the worst—they didn’t expect him to live through the night.

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