Race for Ray shows support for injured med student

Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.

When Ray Brown traveled to a Haitian cholera treatment center with his medical school class, he volunteered for the night shift.

“We were in 110- to 120-degree weather in a place with no running water and no AC,” said Shenary Cotter, an attending physician with the University of Florida School of Medicine. “He just worked so hard.”

Brown, 31, would haul 5-gallon buckets of waste away from patients’ beds and replace them numerous times a day. One time, Cotter said, Brown was trying to find a vein on an older Haitian man and he got frustrated when he couldn’t find one.

“He looked at me and said, ‘should I just quit?” Cotter said.

She told him not to — that he could do it.

“And he did,” she said.

That was the old Brown.

These days, Brown gets around in a wheelchair and talks in short bursts. About seven months ago, Brown was on the highway coming back from Tennessee when his car hit a semi-truck. He went unconscious and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He’s been in recovery ever since.

His med school classmates organized a race — not only to raise money for his medical care, but to show the man who gave so much of himself that he deserves the same kind of treatment.

The Race for Ray 5K happens on Sunday at 8 a.m. It starts and ends at the Gale Lemerand commuter lot on the UF campus. Registration costs $15, and same day registration will be available starting at 6:45 a.m. Pre-registration can be done through www.raceforray.com.

One of Brown’s classmates, Danielle Cobb, helped to organize the race.

“It’s been a healing process,” she said. “As a class, we had been talking about ways to help him, and we thought a race would be a great way to do it. It’s in celebration of his birthday and to raise some money for his medical expenses, and to show our love and support for Ray.”

Cotter said the School of Medicine is holding a contest to see which department can have the highest participation rate, and it’s waiving fees for students.

“A lot of (students) are declining to be reimbursed,” she said.

She said it’s Brown’s determination that inspires so many to support him, and lately he’s been really struggling.

His brother, Tom Brown, said Ray knows the road to recovery is a long one.

“The progress now is pretty slow. Hopefully being with family and friends, things will pick up,” Tom Brown said. “He’s living with his mom and the VA comes by the house to give therapies. And he gets out to the beach or to do active things out as much as he can.”

It’s not all sadness, though, his brother said. There are moments when the old Ray Brown shines through. For example, Ray likes to talk, and he still makes jokes.

“We see the same Ray in a lot of ways,” his brother said, “just the speech is different. He still kind of mumbles and he’s hard to hear sometimes, but he can still speak his mind.”

The main issue right now is getting Ray Brown into a set schedule, his brother said. Also, the emotional weight is hard for Ray Brown to carry sometimes.

“He keeps telling us he feels broken right now,” his brother said. “He wants to jump right back into life, then the reality sinks in and hard feelings come into play.”

Despite those hard feelings, Ray Brown and his family plan to be at the race.

“Ray will be there. We’re going to go in a carpool (from St. Augustine) and leave early that morning,” his brother said. “His current physical therapist will be there, and we’ll play it by ear as far as what he’ll be able to do, but we’ll push him in his wheelchair part of the way.”

Cobb said she’s been surprised by the positive response so far, and she hopes for a big turnout.

“It’s a great way for us to band together and show support for Ray and his family,” she said.

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