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Old 10-25-2009, 06:16 AM   #1
Galax Steeler
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Default Wife shows Steeler true meaning of being strong

Sunday, October 25, 2009
By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Chuck Finder/Post-Gazette
April Carter with niece Zipporia, 13, top left, and children, clockwise, T.J., 16, Tyron, 12, Tyra, 3, and Tyree, 6 weeks.

WELLINGTON, Fla. -- He dropped the phone. Through his sister's sobs, he made out the gist of her message: His wife had an accident, and she couldn't move her legs. Tyrone Carter first lost the handle on the receiver, then on his emotions.

Frantic, he asked his mother to drive him from her Pompano Beach, Fla., house to the nearby park where April Carter and his sister had gone four-wheeling. He had sent off his outdoors-loving wife earlier that day -- just hours after her 27th birthday -- with an admonition: Be careful.

During her second ATV jaunt of the afternoon, without warning, she said, the brakes failed. She careened into hedges and blacked out. She was sitting upright in the grass when her husband reached her, but she could feel nothing from her waist down. The man she met at the University of Minnesota, the mate she supported through his NFL sojourn from her hometown Vikings to the New York Jets to the Steelers, hoped against hope it was the same type of injury a hard-charging safety often got on football fields.

"I remember plenty of times I hit someone and get numb a little bit and, all of a sudden, my feelings come back," he recalled. "So I just thought maybe eventually that [numbness] will go away."

She can still hear him in the ambulance en route to the hospital: It shouldn't be you. I wish it were me. You don't deserve this.

"But I know all things happen for a reason," April Carter, now 31, said in a soft voice from her wheelchair the other day, four and a half years after the April 2005 accident that paralyzed her. "I don't know why it did. Our life was already written."

The plot thickens a tad today when Tyrone's old team visits his new team, Vikings vs. Steelers, at Heinz Field. His daughter, Tyra, 3, will attend along with one of April Carter's sisters from Minneapolis. Mrs. Carter stayed behind in Florida with 6-week-old Tyree, the latest chapter in their life.

Start with Tyrone Carter's personal narrative. His parents abused drugs. His father lost his job and left his wife, along with children Veronica, Tony and Tyrone, then 7. Their paternal grandmother, Mamie Carter, at the time tended to five kids in a three-bedroom Pompano Beach house that ultimately saw her raise 13 children and grandchildren. Then she adopted her son's sons, Tony and Tyrone.

Tyrone was a high school junior when he had a son of his own, T.J. He had another son, Tristan, with a woman while they attended the University of Minnesota. Then he met April Eubanks. Together, they have endured more than most.

Ten years, three children of their own, three NFL teams, two Super Bowls and one accident later, it's a story arc that cannot help but fall gently following all the rising action of 2005. After the Steelers signed Tyrone Oct. 20, 2004, the family late that year moved into the house they had designed and built in Wellington.

In the next 10 months, the Carters experienced a litany of once-in-a-lifetime events. Or, as April put it, "A lot went on that year. That's when I got injured. ..."

In order, they withstood: her crash; a seven-hour surgery by doctors from the famed Miami Project to Cure Paralysis; word that she had no chance of walking again; three months of hospitalization; rehabilitation; pregnancy with Tyra; a stellar Steelers season and a trip to a Super Bowl XL championship.

"I think if I was to write a book, it would let people know: It ain't over for you, no matter what people may think, what the obstacles or situation may look like," said Tyrone Carter, 33. "Watching my wife go through what she goes through, there's nothing in this world that I could go through that's going to affect me, by any stretch of the imagination. From my childhood days to my teenage days to now ... You're living out your dream [in the NFL], and here comes another obstacle. What are you going to do now?"

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Old 10-25-2009, 06:17 AM   #2
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Default Re: Wife shows Steeler true meaning of being strong

Roadblocks and detours

Carters adapt.

It's what they've done since they were children.

When their home life deteriorated, they moved into their grandmother's house -- she enclosed her porch for children Nos. 6 and 7.

"Seeing how dysfunctional my family was, I was acting out then. Always angry, ready to fight," Tyrone Carter remembered. "[She] kept me in a lot of after-school church activities and kept me off the street."

Tony Carter, two years older, helped, too: "I kept that life away from my brother." When Tyrone was a senior at Ely High, their mother, Sarah, got sober and got her own place. Their father, also Tony, reformed and returned to their lives as well. Tyrone Carter added: "Ever since they've been off drugs, they've been great parents."

When it came time for a college scholarship, his grandmother preferred far-off Minnesota.

"Florida, there was nothing but negativity there. You either sold drugs, ran the streets or partied," he said. "Going to Minnesota, it was a different part of life. People pushed you, wanted to see you be successful." His grandmother died his freshman year. The Carters still own her vacant house.

When he was no longer with the mothers of two of his sons, he was embraced by a mature Minneapolis native.

"She was a strong woman who knew what she wanted," he said of April. "We grew a bond then. Shoot, we've been together ever since. She's very caring. Caring for my kids like they were her own."

When Mr. Carter, a consensus All-American, left the university and then the Vikings after three seasons, he paused before joining the New York Jets in free agency in 2003 to propose to April.

After one year, he returned to the Vikings, only to be cut two days before the 2004 season opener. The Steelers called barely five weeks later, adding him as a special-teamer and backup.

When April was paralyzed six months into his Steelers career, then-coach Bill Cowher afforded him the time he needed to be with her. When Tyrone felt weak, he returned to Steelers practices.

"I was getting too emotional and too hurt for her," he said, "and she wasn't even breaking."

They would be married a few months later in their new Florida home in a private wedding officiated by his pastor uncle. The size of the ceremony remains one of April's only regrets.

"We said we want to renew our vows, have a big wedding," she said. "That's one thing that's missing in our house, a big wedding picture."

When the Steelers reached Super Bowl XL 10 months after the accident, April Carter stayed home because she was expecting Tyra, ("When she's pregnant, we're going to the Super Bowl," joked her husband) but sent their children -- T.J., Tyron and Tristan -- to Detroit.

Also along for the ride was Tyrone's big brother, Tony, even though he had already missed his Jan. 6, 2006, date to report to jail to start his six-month sentence for driving with a revoked license. After the Steelers' victory over Seattle, he turned himself in to Florida authorities. Broward County Circuit Judge Stanton S. Kaplan increased the sentence to five years.

At the time, Tony Carter said he would do it all again. But then, in February, his little brother and the Steelers beat Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII, not far from where Tony was starting his fourth year in prison.

"Tell me about it," Tony, now on a work release program, said "And they were right there in Tampa. Hardee Correction was, like, a 30-minute drive from the stadium. I talked to my brother before the game, after the game, then my family -- I was like, 'Oh my God. I never thought they'd go again.'

"The most important thing was: I was there for him, for his wife, his family, my mom ... Then who knew? [Three] years later, they were there again ... If I only had humbled myself [and reported the first time]. It taught me something. It taught me to have patience. That's one thing you can't take back, time.

"Well, I can't complain. I thank God I made it. I got seven months to go, and it's a wrap."

With the kids in school, April can only occasionally travel north during Steelers season. The person who comes to Pittsburgh to stay and cook and tend to the backup safety is his once-missing mother, Sarah Carter.

"Even though I didn't have those times with my mom when I was younger," Tyrone said, "I thank God I have that time now"
Moving forward

The wife and mother picks up the spirits of the husband and father nowadays.

"I'd be lying if I told you I don't have bad days. I have bad days," Tyrone Carter said. "But when you have somebody that's encouraging you, lifting you up, in the utmost situation, looking at her situation ... That entitles me to hold on for her. Don't quit for my kids as well."

At their home inside a gated subdivision just west of Palm Beach, the Carters turned his downstairs office into a wheelchair-accessible bedroom. They fish for largemouth bass in nearby Lake Okeechobee. They jet ski.

"Everything's the same," said April Carter, although she admitted, "some things are different. I love to do things outdoors. My husband keeps things normal as far as that goes."

True, he was away at work when contractions started two days before a scheduled Cesarean section, which Mr. Carter had planned to attend. His oldest sister, Veronica, drove April Carter to the hospital. Tyree was born the Tuesday before the Chicago game. Tyrone "didn't make it on time, but he was still here to see him," April recalled with a smile.

While her husband is in Pittsburgh, she oversees a household of five children: T.J., 16; Tyron, 12; Tyra, 3; and newborn Tyree. (Tristan, 10, lives in Minnesota.) The Carters this school year also took in a niece, Zipporia, 13, the daughter of one of Tyrone's three sisters.

"I love having a big family," April Carter said.

"I think she is stronger than me," Tyrone Carter said. "Words can't explain. I can't feel what she goes through each day, being able to walk all your life and then all of a sudden. ... To stay strong [through] that?

"She's an angel, man," Tony Carter said. "I was up in Minnesota when he first met her. She's a great person, got a good heart. He had two [sons] when he met her, and she accepted them as if they were hers. Being from Minnesota, coming all the way down here, marrying my brother, then having an accident like that ... ? I'm sorry to have her like that, 'cause she truly is an angel."

Tyrone Carter continued: "I thank God for what we do have. We made the best out of it, man ... She does everything with my kids. It just shows me that, no matter what the circumstances are in your life, if you're willing to sacrifice and keep your mind set on what you want in life, nothing can stop you. For her, she looked at it and faced it and looked forward, and she has been positive ever since. We had two kids after this. Who would have imagined we'd have two kids after she was paralyzed?

"I tell you, man, life is a true testament of living and learning, man."

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