Corrales Dupree football main
Corrales Dupree courtesy Corrales Dupree
Corrales Dupree is a can-do kind of guy.
He adapts and excels, an athletic, personable sophomore at John Tyler Community College who wants to become a physical therapist, and with every expectation of attaining that goal.
And when you learn his story, how he’s been tested, how he saw and experienced sheer terror, pain, and nearly died, how he lost a leg, but found his heart, how he’s worked hard, driven himself and drawn from and inspired an extensive network of friends and family, you know he’ll make it happen.
It’s who he is. Dupree says there’s no other attitude to have than a positive one: Life goes on either way, so why not keep striving for the upside?
“I just want to continue to help people any way I can,” he says. “That makes my day, every day. That’s my purpose.”
Dupree was 16 when he almost died on Thanksgiving Day in 2012.
His family had enjoyed a holiday feast, and then he and his mom and brother returned home with his mother’s ex-boyfriend. An argument escalated into unimaginable violence. According to Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, Dupree tried to protect his mother, Tarmesha Jones, from her former boyfriend, Michael D. Williams III. He had become enraged and abusive after they had to cancel shopping plans.
Williams chased Dupree, who ran into his house. Williams pulled a pistol from his car, and then shot Dupree and his younger brother, Brandon Craig, who was 10 at the time. He threatened to kill the trio, strangled and shot the mother, before Chesterfield police flushed him from the home. Williams was sentenced the following year to 104 years imprisonment.
Dupree was treated at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. He went through 10 surgeries over three months and was discharged in February 2013.
Through it all, he was determined. He wanted to return to playing football, and that kept him going, as did the knowledge that his mother and brother were OK. He also could draw strength from an extensive network of friends and family.
“It was so many positive vibes around me that I told myself I couldn’t be negative about it.”
Dupree had a special present on Christmas Day, a hospital visit from Jacob Rainey, a rising star football player who had lost a leg in 2011 following a freak injury in a preseason scrimmage. Rainey has gone on to serve as a student coach and an inspiration to his teammates at the University of Virginia.
Rainey was an eye-opener for Dupree, telling him what to expect and showing him what was possible. “I never thought an amputee could walk so well until I saw Jacob, says Dupree.
They’ve since become close, and talk and have worked out together.
That he wants to become a physical therapist is a testament to the hard work put in by the team at Lawrence Rehab-The Gait Center in Richmond.
Trust is built and the therapy team has cemented that relationship with Dupree. Each patient’s situation is of course different, but with Dupree, his therapists had to come up with a game plan that would play off his abilities and mindset as an athlete. He was used to coaching, so David Lawrence and Danene Brown say they took on that role, retraining his body and his brain. They worked him, and they worked him hard. Dupree thrived.
Dupree had to learn all over again how to walk. His therapists also taught him to walk up and down ramps. Otherwise, he couldn’t have gotten around with ease at his school, Thomas Dale High School in Chester.
He didn't want to stop there, though: He wanted to run, to be able to do football running drills and side-shuffles, and he wanted to shoot hoops, too.
And that’s beyond what insurance will typically pay for. Lawrence and Brown volunteer their time to keep working with Dupree and others after the insurance money dries up.
“My experience here was life-changing,” says Dupree. “They made my dreams come true. They kept pushing me. They wouldn’t let me give up.”
He’s mobile courtesy of a titanium prosthetic. It’s a scientific wonder, a sturdy platform from which Dupree had to relearn the basics of simply balancing before he could proceed to walking, let alone running. Little things, like an unexpected pat on the back can send someone new to a prosthetic tumbling.
“He makes it look easy,” says Lawrence, (but) this is not for the faint of heart.”
He’s broken it several times, because he pushes himself, and the device. He cushions it when he plays basketball, not for himself, but to protect the guys he’s playing with so they won’t be injured when they run into him.
One requirement for a physical therapy career is to shadow professionals in the field for 40 hours. Brown and Lawrence wryly note that Dupree has well more than 40 hours of experience that is personal and first-hand, but unfortunately doesn’t count toward his class.
Brown notes that Dupree is well on his way to a physical therapy career. He meets with VCU students when they visit the clinic and answers their questions and it makes an impression, because he’s a peer, age-wise.
“There’s no better education than that,” she says.
Just as Rainey worked with him, Dupree works with others going through his situation, mentoring, cajoling and encouraging to do their best. He’s also worked in a prosthetic lab, so he has first-hand knowledge about the devices and can even perform tweaks on his.
Dupree will bring a special element to his working with others, says Lawrence, empathy built on his experiences. “I can’t say I know how you feel,” says Lawrence. “I need veteran patients to come in and say ‘I know how you feel.’”
Lawrence is in awe of Dupree, for what he’s accomplished. It would have been so easy for him to give up, to say forget it, and just get by and feel sorry for himself. “It makes it inspiring to us as therapists to work with someone with that kind of drive,” says Lawrence. “It’s not something most of us can understand.”
He says he’s unaware of any other above-the-knee amputee who is serving as a physical therapist, and that the knowledge Dupree will bring to his work will be invaluable.
“It’s going to be fun to watch,” he says.
As for Dupree, he’s active and open to new experiences. At Camp No Limits an experience for children who have lost limbs or have limb differences held recently in Connecticut, Dupree served as a volunteer counselor. It was a place to show kids who thought they can’t do something that they can, he says. Dupree also had a chance to play sled hockey, an adaptation of hockey where players move about on sleds. He loved it.
Dupree acknowledges that what he saw, what he went through, has left scars. But it also left him on a mission, to be his best and to help others along the way.
“It makes me feel like I’m here for a reason,” he says.
A roundup of health and medicine news of the week
- Free seminars are offered by VCU Health today and Tuesday at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Putting the Quality Back into Life with Cancer” will be presented today by Danielle Noreika of the VCU Massey Cancer Center. A seminar on lymphoma will be presented on Tuesday by the Massey Center’s Victor Yazbeck. Each hour-long session begins at 5:30 p.m. and each is at the Kelly Education Center at the garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave. Free, but registration is recommended.
- It’s a girls’ night out for a cause, the fifth annual PJ Jamboree, set for 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, July 29, at Salisbury Country Club in Midlothian. The fundraiser for the Bon Secours Cancer Institute is for women only, and will include dancing with music provided by the B2B band and a silent auction. Admission is $35 and jammies are optional. Call 594-4900.
- Virginia's state laboratory has begun testing mosquitos for the presence of Zika virus. There have been 38 cases of the disease reported in Virginia through Wednesday, but none were acquired in the continental United States.
- Infants with delays in development of motor skills may get a boost from a $3.4 million federal grant that’s going to four institutes, including the physical therapy department at Virginia Commonwealth University. The four-year study will evaluate the effectiveness of a “fully developed intervention that targets sitting, reaching and motor-based problem-solving.”