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Charon May: Bullet from .22 caliber rifle changes Imperial man's life forever

February 17, 2001|By ANTHONY LONGORIA, Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — At age 27, Charon May is truly a survivor.

Ten years ago, a bullet from a .22 caliber rifle changed this Imperial resident's life forever.

It happened at a friend's apartment in February 1991. His best friend was playing with his father's rifle under the assumption the clip was out of the rifle.

"The only thing I remember hearing is him clicking the magazine," recalled May. "I heard five clicks, raised up, and by the time I turned around, (the bullet) just got me point blank."

The bullet entered just below his left cheekbone. Upon impact with his spinal cord, it shattered, leaving several bullet fragments lodged in his spinal cord.

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The next thing May remembers was waking up in the hospital, paralyzed from the neck down. Doctors expected him to be bedridden for the rest of his life.

"In one split second everything is gone," said May.

The once active teen-ager who aspired to a career in law enforcement, spent the next few months in the hospital recovering from a severe neck injury and paralysis.

"Not feeling sorry for myself I think that's what helped me the most," May said of his rehabilitation.

May said his faith played an important role in his recovery.

"God has something out there for me to do. That's why I believe I'm still here," said May. "By the grace of God I'm still alive."

Though the left side of his body remains completely paralyzed, today May walks with the aid of a cane and even drives.

After his recovery, he returned to high school, graduated and attended Imperial Valley College for a few semesters. May has taken a break from school and is exploring various "business ventures" and pursuing his dreams of counseling.

While in rehabilitation, May developed a passion for counseling others after he befriended a neo-Nazi fellow patient in the rehabilitation center. Through several conversations May and the young man developed an understanding and eventually a friendship that May said astonished the young man's parents.

Today May counsels others with disabilities and he previously counseled teens in the county juvenile hall.

County Chief Probation Officer Mike Kelly called May a "fine young man" and said May's counseling has helped the youths.

May said of his counseling: "I like to get out there and find these people and talk with them and try to uplift them because there's nobody else that I feel that can do what I can tell them or show them because I've been through it."

May has dreams of opening a center to assist disabled locals and help counsel those who are newly disabled, a situation May is hardly unfamiliar with.

"Here in the Valley there aren't facilities to do special counseling for people with disabilities and how to cope with them," May said.

He also aspires to champion locally for the disabled and spoke of pending civil rights litigation he's involved in, though he wouldn't divulge any details about his case.

"People that aren't disabled aren't aware of the rights of the disabled," said May. "There need to be more programs (locally) that make individuals more aware of how to treat disabled people."

Ironically, May's debilitating accident came when people with disabilities were gaining civil rights in America via the Americans with Disabilities Act.

When asked if one man can make a difference May said, "I'm gonna be that man."

His drive, he conceded, comes from his optimism.

"Everybody goes through trials and tribulations to figure out where they're going in life," May said. "I guess this is one tribulation that I had to go through and accept it and just make the best of a bad situation."

The bullet that paralyzed May is still lodged in his spinal cord, an unlikely and easily forgettable companion.

"(The bullet) is a part of me," May said. "It's strange because a lot of times I forget about the bullet. I forget it's there. I don't think about the bullet or being disabled, I just think ‘I'm just living.' I don't really think about it."

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