SPECIAL REPORT: The games that restored a veteran's hope

SPECIAL REPORT: The games that restored a veteran's hope

(KYTX) - An East Texas veteran finds renewed confidence after spending the last year and a half paralyzed in a wheelchair. 

CBS 19's Courtney Friedman explains how Wayne Young made it through his tough journey. 

Wayne Young is just one of those people who exudes positivity. He served our country decades ago, but hasn't lost any part of his army values - honor, pride, and most of all strength. 
A terrible medical emergency turned his life upside down, and it was yet another unexpected event, that turned it right side up again. 

It's still hard for the U.S. Army veteran to talk about his years over in Vietnam. 

"I never even talked to my wife about Vietnam until now," Young says. 

In 1970, he came home from war with PTSD, but he always called himself lucky to have walked away physically unharmed. 

It was forty years later, May 12, 2012 to be exact, when Young's second life battle began. This time, the war was inside of him.

"I had an aortic aneurysm rupture. I was at a Ranger ball game when it happened," he explains. 

Young was rushed to the hospital, where a surgeon told Young's wife Kathy, he only had a 3 percent chance of living.

"I woke up two and a half months later, paralyzed in a wheelchair, but I was alive," he says.

Complications during his surgery, cut off circulation to the lower half of his body, meaning from the waist down, his limbs and organs do not function. 

He spent about four months at Baylor's hospital and rehab facilities before transferring to the Dallas Veteran's Affairs Hospital.  That's where he says his life and attitude changed forever. 

"They said hey we want you to think about going to the wheelchair games?"

He'd never heard of anything like it.

"There were all kinds of doubts in my mind," Young recalls. 

Paralyzed veterans bowling and shooting guns, and playing baseball, in wheelchairs.

"I said I ain't gonna be no good at it. Ain't one of us gonna be good at it. I've never seen nobody in a bowling alley in a wheelchair."

It was his wife Kathy who finally convinced him to take a leap of faith, and once he did, he never looked back.

"I used to bowl in leagues when I had two good legs, but I'm still pretty decent at bowling even in a wheelchair. They discovered I was a pretty good shot too. I was a cop for 21 years," Young says.

Slowly, Young began to discover he wasn't so disabled after all.

Kathy tries to give him a run for his money in bowling, but Wayne has the skill mastered and he's tough to beat, and not just in bowling!

He's a skilled air rifle shooter. 

During the wheelchair games -- a perfect score is 400. Young says he's scored around a 383 before, and he's hoping to improve even more. 

Last year, Young took his first trip to compete in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tampa Bay. 

He competed in several events against hundreds of other veterans. He came home with a gold in bowling, a silver in air rifle shooting, and a fourth place ribbon in archery, but most of all, he came back with an entirely new perspective.

"There's not nothing out there I can't do. I may have to do it a little bit different, and I may have to have a little bit of help getting it done, but I can do it," Young says.

He was told driving would be almost impossible, but every day, he beats the odds.

"My pick up truck is sitting there in the driveway, modified for a wheelchair and hand use. I get up there and get in the truck, use that little crane to get the wheelchair and set it in the back, go anywhere I want to go."

No day is easy, and there is still pain, but there's also hope. 

"There's always hope," Young smiles. 

He says without a doubt, that hope came from the games.  The games woke him up and gave him his life back. 
His eyes well with tears as he thinks about other veterans who haven't found that hope yet. 

"It gets to the point where you can lay here in bed, feeling sorry for yourself because you ain't ever going to be able to do the things you used to do, or you can get up and do the things you used to do."

He knows so many of our nation's heroes are stuck in the dark. He hopes his story will help them find light. 

Young is training now for this year's games, which will be in Philadelphia in August. The VA and the Paralyzed Veterans of America help veterans pay for the first year only. So this time, young is on his own.

That's why now, when he's not training, he's focusing on fundraising. On average, it costs around $5,000 for the week long trip. That includes plane and hotel for both him and Kathy, who is his caregiver and needs to be there with him.

If you would like to help Wayne Young get to Philadelphia this year, an account has been set up at Austin Bank as: Benefit account for Wayne Young.

Or you can mail a donation to:

Benefit Account for Wayne Young
P.O. Box 64
Gilmer, Texas 75644


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