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Project Resilience: Adjusting When Life Takes A Sudden Turn

Courtesy of Janelle and Colton Carter


As part of UPR’s Project Resilience series, producer Mary Heers introduces us to a young husband and wife who are familiar with the challenges of adapting when life takes a sudden turn. 

Mary: Janelle Carter wanted to become a German teacher ever since she took her first German class in the seventh grade and was right on track. It was only supposed to be a short trip to Montana to visit her husband's family. Colton went out four wheeling with his friends. Janelle stayed home because she was four months pregnant. Then everything changed. Colton lost control of his four wheeler and hit a tree so hard it broke his back and severed his spinal cord.

Janelle: I just got a phone call from the dad of the group that was there. And he said, “Janelle, Colton has been in an accident.” And I honestly thought that he was joking at first. And then he put his wife on the phone and she was in tears and thenI knew it was real. 

It wasn't until we were in the hospital and Colton had had all his scans and been checked out by the neurosurgeon that I knew he was paralyzed. 

The accident happened on the 15th of June and we were in the hospital and came home to my parents house in the middle of August. 

Colton: It was absolutely amazing to see the outpouring of love that came our way. I noticed that as people came to visit us in the hospital and to visit me, there were those who were quite shaken up and they were still kind of recovering emotionally themselves. And there were times where it seemed as though Janelle and I found ourselves comforting them. 

Janelle: So we both took a break the fall semester after his accident because we didn't know when we would be leaving the hospital and I was having a baby.

Mary: When their friends asked them what their plans were, Janelle and Colton said it was simply to survive 2019. But by 2020, Colton and Janelle were back on track with their dreams. Janelle had given birth to a healthy baby girl and Colton was getting around in a wheelchair.

Janelle: And we're already researching how to travel back to Europe excessively. Where and which cities are more accessible and different things that we can do. Because we love traveling and we love going back to our mission area and exploring new countries. And we don't plan on giving that up because we have to do it a little differently.

Colton: I'm not one to give in or give up. I'm not one I guess to hang up my spurs so to speak. I do want to get back on the horse and, and, in manner of speaking, kind of show the injury to who's boss. 

Janelle: I have a semester left of classes and then next spring I am doing my student teaching for my German teaching major. 

Colton: My German teacher in Montana. His name is Mr. McGrath. He makes you enjoy the class so much.

Janelle: He is actually someone who visited Colton in the hospital when we are still in Bozeman. 

Colton: He is one of those teachers that just leaves a lasting impact on your life. 

Mary: Janelle, one day you'll be that person.

Janelle: It brings tears to my eyes just thinking that I could be that person to the students.


Kirsten grew up listening to Utah Public Radio in Smithfield, Utah and now resides in Logan. She has three children and is currently producing Utah StoryCorps and working as the Saturday morning host on UPR. Kirsten graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree History in 2000 and dual minors in Horticulture and German. She enjoys doing voice work, reading, writing, drawing, teaching children, and dancing. Major credits include StoryCorps, Utah Works, One Small Step, and the APTRA award-winning documentary Ride the Rails.
Mary got hooked on oral histories while visiting Ellis Island and hearing the recorded voices of immigrants that had passed through. StoryCorps drew her to UPR. After she retired from teaching at Preston High, she walked into the station and said she wanted to help. Kerry put her to work taking the best 3 minutes out of the 30 minute interviews recorded in Vernal. Passion kicked in. Mary went on to collect more and more stories and return them to the community on UPR's radio waves. Major credits to date: Utah Works, One Small Step, and the award winning documentary Ride the Rails.