Author finds humor, joy in personal tragedy

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SALT LAKE CITY -- When something bad happens, we can sometimes think our lives are over. But a man who was paralyzed from the neck down after a devastating accident says his "life is good."

Jack Rushton says when tragedy strikes, you have a choice.

"You can either be miserable and overly sensitive to the things that happen, or you can see the absolute fun in living in this condition," he says.

Jack has every excuse to be depressed.

You can either be miserable and overly sensitive to the things that happen, or you can see the absolute fun in living in this condition.

–Jack Rushton

"I always consider Aug. 1, 1989 my new birthday," he says. "I tell everybody I'm 21 years old."

That's the day he nearly died in a surfing accident. Jack was riding a wave with his son when his head struck a submerged rock, snapping his spinal cord.

He was instantaneously paralyzed from the neck down.

"I tried to swim but I knew I couldn't move my arms or legs," he says. "I saw green, swirling sea water all around me and then I blacked out."

Jack woke up two hours later, surrounded by doctors and family. When he realized he would never be able to move, eat, or do anything on his own again, he says he wanted his life to end -- until he turned the decision over to God.

"The burden of paralysis was removed, and the depression, the sorrow, the hopelessness just evaporated," he says.

That burden was replaced with a desire to live -- along with a spry sense of humor. Jack shared an experience with a little boy at an elementary school he visited.

"He looked into my eyes and he said, ‘Hey mister, what happened to your face?' I said, ‘My face? I thought that was the only thing that was halfway working,'" he says. "I tried to run over the little kid. I didn't really, but you know."

Jack has to rely on his wife for everything and he can laugh at his lack of control.

"I don't wear man clothes anymore, I wear outfits," he says.

No trial is too difficult, no sorrow unbearable, Jack says, if you have love and laughter.

"We do not need to let the circumstances of life keep us from achieving our true potential," he says. "It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but I can truly say that I am a happy person and it is good to be alive.

Jack's book is called "It's Good to be Alive: Observations from a Wheelchair." It's available at most major book stores.



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