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From a Months-Long Coma to the Adaptive CrossFit Open, John Verrett’s Road to Recovery

Photo Courtesy of John Verrett

John Verrett has no memory of the first two months of 2019.

On January 1, he was in a boating accident that left him in a coma. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury, as well as a spinal cord injury, and doctors told Verrett’s family that if he ever did wake up, chances are he’d be a vegetable for the rest of his life.

His wife Margaret Verrett was faced with the decision to pull the plug.  

  • “And I said, if you can’t sit here and tell me for a fact that that’s how he’s going to live the rest of his life, we’re going to do everything we can,” Margaret remembered.

She did not pull the plug, and after 23 days in a coma, John woke up.

Verrett’s Story

The first memory Verrett, now 30, has of 2019 was sometime in March.

  • “I had no idea how bad my injury was then. I probably didn’t realize how bad it was until six months after the accident when it hit me how much I couldn’t do,” said Verrett, a father to 7- and 2-year-old daughters.

He spent the next four months in the hospital just learning how to walk again, but he still wasn’t able to do simple tasks like grab a pen and write his name, or open a door.

Back then his goal was just to be able to walk again. The thought of ever working out in a gym was the furthest thing from his mind.

But five years later, that’s exactly what he is doing. A member of CrossFit HomeBrew in Houma, LA, Verrett competed in the Neuromuscular Major division of the 2024 Adaptive CrossFit Open by WheelWOD. He finished 21st overall.

Today, Verrett can do deep squats, box jumps, burpees, and push-ups on his knees, and he can deadlift 235 pounds.

  • “I can do a lot of stuff I never thought I could do again,” he said. “And after a workout I’m always in a good mood. It makes me feel like a better person. I’m like the Grinch if I don’t workout.”

Verrett credits the physical therapist he has been working with since the accident for pushing him to try CrossFit with her even when he was intimidated by the thought of it, he said.

And although he said he will likely never 100 percent recover, he’s much further along than anyone thought he’d ever be because of CrossFit. 

  • “I have seen so much progress [in the last year]. That’s the biggest thing that has kept me going is the progress I have seen,” he said. “I’m just going with the flow and just want to get as good as I can.”

He added: “Do I have as much happiness in my life than before the accident? In some ways, yes. But it’s a different kind of happiness. I’m a happy person, so I’ll always find happiness.”