Shannon Hudson overcomes horrific accident to walk Peachtree Road Race

When Shannon Hudson regained consciousness on the asphalt during a pretty fall day in 2004, she didn’t know where she was. A single thought sprang to her mind.

“Please don’t let me be paralyzed.”

Moments earlier, Hudson was riding a motorcycle in Brookhaven when a pickup turned in front of her. Hudson swerved to avoid the truck and lost control of the motorcycle, plowing through a chain-link fence and down a 20-foot embankment. She pinballed between trees, blacking out various times. She feared the worst when she couldn’t sit up.

While Hudson lay there — she couldn’t sit up because of a broken pelvis — she couldn’t imagine that 11 years later she would participate in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race for the second consecutive year. Hudson, who lives in Cumming, has endured 13 surgeries and once wondered if she would ever walk again. But Saturday she plans to walk the 6.2-mile course, as she did last year.

“I can’t tell you how many doctors tell me I’m lucky to be alive,” Hudson said. “I was pretty determined on the road to recovery.”

Hudson always wanted to run the Peachtree Road Race, but that dream was put on hold after the accident. She had to focus on more basic tasks, such as physical therapy, and deal with debilitating pain from her array of injuries, including a compound fracture in her right leg.

Hudson was in a wheelchair for about five months following the accident. Nearly a year on crutches followed. In the first year alone, she had nine surgeries.

The surgeries weren’t enough. She wore a fixator, a bulky device, on her right leg twice. The same device was attached to her pelvis.

“I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to work again,” Hudson said. “I honestly didn’t know how my life would be.”

Ken Cunningham envisioned a life of limited mobility for Hudson, who he’s known for over 20 years.

“I imagined that 11 years (after the accident) I would be pushing her around in a wheelchair,” Cunningham said. “For the rest of our lives, I’d be pushing her around in a wheelchair.”

Before the accident, Hudson lived a very active lifestyle. She played numerous sports growing up, was in a motorcycle club and loved traveling.

“It was hard to catch her at home,” Cunningham said. “She was out doing something.”

The motorcycle injuries robbed Hudson of that independence. She moved back in with her parents. When was confined to a bed for three months, the fixator in her pelvis and other ailments prevented Hudson from taking a shower. Instead, her mother brought her a tub of water for a sponge bath. Initially, her mother helped her bathe, but Hudson hated to rely on someone else.

Hudson had to give up a job at the Atlanta Zoo and the possibility of going to veterinary school because the work was too strenuous. She’s an accountant now, though she holds a degree in biology.

When Hudson secured a job at Siemens about four years ago, she began to feel like she was getting her old life back. A couple of years later she was living on her own again.

The pain hasn’t totally dissipated — there are still days when she struggles to get out of bed and she’s used a cane — but Hudson has learned to deal with the constant aches and throbbing. She bikes and kayaks now.

Last year, she decided to walk the Peachtree. When Hudson told Sean Cromwell, he fretted. Cromwell, Hudson’s boyfriend who knew her before the accident, thought the race would be too difficult and painful for Hudson.

“I was waiting for a phone call that said, ‘Hey I’m halfway through it. Can you come get me?’” Cromwell said. “That never happened.”

Despite a lack of training, Hudson finished the race a decade after the motorcycle accident, “a really big accomplishment,” Hudson said. She defied expectations along the way and even inspired Cunningham, whose back is broken in four places.

Cunningham once thought Hudson would never walk, but 11 years after Hudson feared paralysis, she plans to walk more than six miles.

“She’s done above and beyond what anybody expected to happen,” Cunningham said. “It’s a miracle.”