West Bloomfield resident Steven Durant and girlfriend Ola Atchison are expecting their first child together, a baby boy due in September.
Photo courtesy of Steven Durant
“An impossible situation is just an opportunity for you to say, ‘I’m possible.’”
Those words by local TV/radio personality Dr. Sabrina Jackson ring true for West Bloomfield resident Steven Durant, 38, who quotes her as one of his favorite motivational speakers – and it’s for good reason.
Durant, by all accounts, should be down — but he instead chooses to inspire others just by living. After suffering many physical and health ailments from a December 2016 car crash outside Columbus, Ohio, he also lost his young daughter, Rosaria, who died after the accident. On top of all of that, he had to learn to walk again.
The native Detroiter (who worked in Ohio at the time of the crash) has since retired from his supervisory examiner position at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and moved back to relearn what many people take for granted in life, like walking. He still is working through daily health challenges and takes daily injections and is on a feeding tube. Doctors also say his bone density is that of someone in their late 80s.
“I have severe osteoporosis (a disease that thins and weakens the bones) as a result of the car crash that involved a 20-year-old who accidentally swerved into Durant’s vehicle; the driver also died from the crash.
HIs bone condition was caused by “malnutrition and malabsorption issues that stem from the accident where the car seatbelt severed his superior mesenteric artery (SMA),” he said, adding that his large and small intestines were resected causing short gut syndrome when the body does not properly absorb and digest food.
He also suffered a traumatic brain injury, several broken bones, two broken arms, a fractured back, plates on both sides of his body and more. He was initially hospitalized in Columbus and returned to Michigan where his family was, and to receive care at a local hospital system.
Durant posted in June on LinkedIn (a day before his birthday) about his recovery journey and shared a video of him walking without a walker for the first time since his daughter’s death.
Durant detailed in his post that he made a statement earlier in January about how he would walk without his walker after his 17th surgery — and he did.
“I am filled with joy at my personal accomplishment thus far. I say thus far because this is only the beginning,” he posted. “Whether you make professional or personal goals, always dream big, work hard, keep the faith, and never give up. Every step is a success. I am very thankful and blessed.”
Durant has a lot to be thankful for despite the tragedies — he also went through a divorce during his ordeal.
Durant also announced in his post that he and his girlfriend, Southfield resident Ola Atchison, are expecting their first child, a boy, in September.
“Embrace life,” he said in his inspiring, viral post that garnered over 192,000 reactions, nearly 9,600 comments and over 3.9 million views.
The life that optimistic Durant embraces hasn’t been easy, he told The Michigan Chronicle recently.
“Faith, family and the sheer will to live it keeps me going,” Durant said, adding that a lot changed for him last year beyond the pandemic.
From his weight plummeting during his bitter divorce and being put on a feeding tube at the height of COVID-19 last year, to dealing with falls that could have had him admitted to an assisted living facility, Durant continued to choose to find joy.
“My sister moved in [with me and] my little niece brought me a lot of joy,” he said, adding that he eventually found love, too, when he met Atchison last year. “The odds were stacked against me — she took a chance.”
Atchison said that they met last July 7 and just celebrated their one-year anniversary.
“It just all happened so fast I — it was like instant chemistry and connection, and we would just be on the phone four or five, six hours,” Atchison said, adding that they clicked after meeting through a friend. “Originally when we met, he told me right up front what he was dealing with. I was like, ‘It’s a lot.’”
She added that she wanted to learn more about him and his heroic journey.
“He showed me everything — how he does his hydration, how he does his feeding tube. I learned really early on how to do it. I do it with him some days he’s not feeling well,” Atchison said, adding that some days he’s not his bubbly self. “Most of the days he has so much energy. I feel bad like, ‘Wow I can be doing more.’”
She added that while he is dealing with rebuilding his life, they are looking forward to having their son, which she described as bittersweet.
“We’ll go and visit his daughter’s crypt — he’ll tell her, ‘You got a brother on the way,’” she said, adding that Durant said his daughter always wanted a brother. “One of his biggest dreams [is] to be a father… the fact that he’s having another child it’s just bringing hope and I think that is why he pushes himself so much. He is preparing for our son.”
In that preparation, Durant continues to keep his spirits up by being busy, too. He is a Rotary Club of Detroit member and he is active in helping others and encouraging them through phone calls and other activities.
“Being able to help others brings me joy,” he said, adding that he also helps organize blood drives. “My life was saved because someone donated blood.”
Durant said that “every day is a new day” and he doesn’t do self-pity.
“You can choose to either get up and try or you can wallow in despair, and I was terrible at just doing nothing and feeling sorry for myself,” Durant said, adding that he’s had some hard days, including thoughts of suicide. “I choose to fight to live. It’s easy to give up but it’s hard to live.”