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The whole story of courage

POSTED October 5, 2010 10:00 p.m.

You hear stories of courage every day. A man survives cancer and goes on to climb Mount Everest. A woman born without legs opens her own business and becomes an inspirational speaker. A child becomes badly burned in a house fire and, despite the pain, is cheerful and full of hope.

These stories of people overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to become happy and successful are good for the soul. But you seldom hear the whole story.

Up until a year ago, I was like many people who enjoyed hearing stories about inspirational people, but didn’t think much more about it. Then one of my best friends was hit by a tree.

His entire life changed in an instant. He went from being a successful business owner, active outdoorsman and hands-on father of five to a man who will most likely be in a wheelchair the rest of his life.

I remember vividly the call from his wife on that September day. The news hit me like a punch in the stomach. The next few days — I thought then — were the toughest, not knowing if he would survive the surgeries needed to repair his crushed spine and pelvic bone.

But he came through the surgeries with flying colors, then went on to amaze the doctors and therapists at the rehabilitation hospital he called home for the following four weeks. My friend also rediscovered his faith in God during his recovery and was an inspiration to many.

Sounds like one of the stories of courage we hear every day, right? Well, not quite. About two months after his accident, my friend began to feel excruciating pain in his back. He should not have been able to feel any pain in his back at all because the doctors said his nerves were severed in that area.

The pain was like a brick wall for my friend. It got in the way of anything and everything he wanted to do. For the next eight months he underwent myriad of tests and procedures. He had a box surgically implanted in his back that shoots electricity through his body. He tried pain killers — which didn’t help at all — and more physical therapy. He even went to a reflexologist in Florida who had amazing success in bringing feeling back in people who were paralyzed.

The pain also affected his mood. A once easygoing ready-for-anything type of guy, my friend took to spending more and more time in bed.

Today my friend still has the pain, but he has decided to live his life in spite of it. Over the summer he spent the weekend with friends, and supporters he just met, who had chipped in to put hand controls on his dune buggy. In August, he went skydiving — an activity that he enjoyed greatly before the accident. And on Sunday, he will compete in the Chicago Marathon.

My friend is one of those inspirational stories you hear about every day — and so much more. Not only do I know about his tragic accident and everything he has had to overcome, but I know the daily struggle, the good days and bad days, that happen in between the successes.

I know that every hour of every day my friend has to convince himself that living his life to the fullest is better than lying in bed waiting for death.

His constant battle gives me the courage to face my petty problems. Thank you Jay for being a light in the darkness. Keep on fighting.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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