After being diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Orlando native Roderick Davenport balanced a tough academic schedule while undergoing many surgeries, coping with chronic pain, as well as facing a series of family deaths. Crediting faith, resilience, perseverance, and a vital support system, Davenport graduated as an academic scholar from American Public University School of Health Sciences, Sports Management on June 18, 2022.
It was a long and difficult journey to reach that moment. CRPS is a severely disabling condition. It is very rare, and doctors are still trying to find an answer to cure it. While working for Orange County Public Schools, Davenport was injured breaking up a fight at Jones High School. “That incident catapulted to the worst two years of my life,” Davenport recalled. “I had to have six surgeries – three in my foot, three in my back – and then I was diagnosed with CRPS, while undergoing multiple family losses right behind each other. It impacted every aspect of my life including how I can be a father.”
Hoping to use his experience and story as inspiration to others, Davenport is determined to make a difference in the community and change lives. As a Sports Management major, Davenport wants to focus on serving low-income and disadvantaged youth, ultimately opening a youth academy. He loves coaching, mentoring young people, and working to create greater opportunities for them.
“Knowing there are youth and others that look to me for strength, I know that being a change in someone’s life means you first have to be that change yourself,” Davenport said. “Going to college was an example of doing that. Even with CRPS, which I have to deal with every day. I had to endure pain and stitches, staples, crutches, learning to walk again, and many other hurdles.”
Davenport credits the American Public University System as being an important part of the support system helping make this a reality.
“In many situations, it would have been difficult to advance and it would have been natural to drop out and try again later,” Davenport explained. “The experience was life-changing for me. In my time attending educational institutions, I have never experienced such quality of care for me as a student and an individual. I never had a bad experience with APU or faculty, it’s a well-rounded system providing the very best for me to keep going. I was always greeted with joy and it is clear the professors always care about you. The college chaplain checked on me and called the hospital to continuously show the best of care to Roderick as an individual. APUS, I call it my A+ team – it was the absolute best experience.”
The support from APUS was matched by a loving support system of close family to play a vital role in allowing Davenport to remain focused on his ultimate goal. “When I was on medical leave from OCPS, my mindset was ‘what are you going to do now?’ and I’ve always been a person who wanted to change lives. So how can I continue to help? It was not easy, but the support system, the people, the faculty, and my faith – they all kept me going.”
After the injury, one student called and thanked Davenport, saying that when he was at Jones he did not have a direction. The student explained that Davenport helped solidify what degree to seek at college and helped the student dream bigger. “Things like this kept me going and told me I couldn’t give up,” Davenport said. “Never give up.”
Throughout this journey, Davenport has shared his story with strangers to help get them back on track. Davenport wants to use his new degree to create innovative strategies to help low-income youth and build programs that connect with companies to develop more opportunities for youth. “They have the talent, but they don’t always have the outlet,” Davenport said. “That’s where my dreams come in.”
The model is to make a difference and change lives, one life at a time. Davenport does hope to build locally in Orlando, but wants to help youth everywhere so the scale is open.
“With CRPS, you wake up with a life of uncertain pain, not knowing how long the pain will last or what the pain will be,” Davenport said. “No matter what, I’m still determined to make a difference and change lives. There are many Roderick Davenports out there going through life changing challenges. When they hear these stories, it helps them to see a clearer path and helps them realize that is possible to do it.”
But despite overcoming so many challenges, Davenport also thinks it is important for people to understand that the rare condition can impact impact an entire livelihood. As a father to four kids, he explained how even going a local theme park as a father is more difficult and changes the experience for the family. With long lines or hours of walking, a flare up slows down the whole group and leaves the family in a bad position far from home. Driving a car is a risk because a flare up on the road could cause a serious accident, so it is not recommended to drive alone. Even at the airport, he must now use a wheelchair automatically, just in case anything should happen.
“It eliminates the normal way of living,” Davenport said. “Uncertainty rules the day. It diminishes quality of life. But you remember what is most important. Trying to be a father and keep everyone else lifted and motivated.”
With that spirit in mind, Davenport looks forward to the next chapter.
“We all have a story, and we have the strength to share that story we can help someone else build the pages of their life, which will one day be a story to share itself,” Davenport said. “I want to use my life to help people. I want my struggle to help other people. I want my story to ignite hope and motivation into someone else.”