Teen is recovering from 2009 shooting

Published 4:00 am Thursday, March 11, 2010

Community Editor

Through the power of faith, 13-year-old Anderson Potter is making strides toward walking again.
Potter, a Chocowinity resident, was the victim of an accidental shooting on Dec. 27, 2009. A friend was handling a .22-caliber rifle when it fired and a bullet struck Potter in the left arm. The bullet went through his lungs before lodging in his spine, paralyzing him.
Potter was taken to Beaufort County Medical Center, then airlifted by EastCare to Pitt County Memorial Hospital, where he began his recovery.
Darren Walker, Potter’s youth minister at First Freewill Baptist Church in Washington, visited Potter while he was at BCMC. Walker told Potter that he would need someone to guide him through his recovery: Jesus.
“I went into the hospital room right after (the shooting) happened. I was sitting there watching him,” Walker said. “When the doctors and nurses happened to leave the room, I walked over, knelt down to him and said, ‘I’m going to pray this prayer. If you’ve never asked Jesus into heart, there is no need to wait.’”
Walker held the young boy’s hand and asked him if he prayed.
“Yes,” said Potter.
Since then, Potter said he prays every day for his recovery.
“Prayer helps me get through the pain and heartache,” Potter said. “Therapy and homesickness is not easy. It’s hard work.”
Potter is a patient at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which is the largest spinal cord-injury center in the nation. He has therapy treatments six days a week, including recreational, occupational and physical therapies.
Potter said the treatment has strengthened his upper body and given him hope that he might walk again.
“It’s very tiring and hard work,” Potter said, adding that it’s “definitely” worth it.
Specifically, Potter has been doing locomotor training, which is an activity-based therapy that attempts to retrain the spinal cord to “remember” the pattern of walking again, according to a Shepherd Center fact sheet.
In addition to therapy sessions, Potter goes to school at the center for an hour and a half each Tuesday and Thursday. To keep up with his classes at Chocowinity Middle School, his teachers fax him school work, which he completes and faxes to them.
Potter’s scheduled release date is March 26, at which point he plans to continue his therapy at a center closer to home. Potter said he is homesick and looks forward to playing with his dog, fishing and going to church.
Walker said Potter has been an inspiration to his church and youth group, Soul’d Out Youth Ministries.
“I’ve seen people that weren’t really involved in church have their faith grow stronger because of what Anderson has gone through. I really, fully believe God is using this as a tool, not only for Anderson, but for other people, too,” he said.
Potter’s youth group held a car wash several weeks ago to raise money for Potter and his family, collecting a little more than $4,000. Chocowinity Middle School has scheduled a pancake-and-sausage supper March 19 in support of Potter. There is a Facebook page — Praying for Anderson — dedicated to Potter. Earlier this week, the page, which is open to the public, had 836 members.
Potter said he is grateful for the community’s support.
“I want to thank all the people … that helped me stay here,” he said.
Potter’s parents, Lee and Robin Potter, heard about the Shepherd Center from a friend whose child spent time there. While their son was a patient at PCMH, Jenny Mitchell, an admissions liaison from the center’s satellite office in Charlotte, came and evaluated him. At her recommendation, Potter voluntarily left PCMH on Feb. 11 and was admitted to Shepherd the same day.
“I’m so thankful that a place like this (Shepherd) exists. Miracles happen here everyday,” Robin Potter said. “They don’t have any answers other than faith in God.”
She said her family’s faith and the support of the community have carried them this far in her son’s recovery.
“Our church family has been remarkable with the support they’ve given us,” she said. “No one ever imagines this happening to their child, but the Lord has given us strength to get through it.”
Anderson Potter said he’s taking his recovery one step at a time. With continued therapy sessions, he hopes to be walking with the help of a walker soon.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” he said.
People interested in sending monetary donations to the Shepherd Center Foundation Inc. should send checks to the following address: 2020 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta, Ga., 30309-1465.