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Paralyzed Iraqi War veteran chooses life, changes mind about committing suicide

An Iraqi War veteran rendered a quadriplegic by a sniper’s bullet is crediting the newfound love of his life with giving him the determination to press on despite grimly deciding to end his own life earlier this year.

In February, Tomas Young, 34, told the various news agencies he planned to remove his feeding tube and refuse the nearly 100 daily medications he takes to keep him alive amidst terrible chronic pain and depression.

“I just came to the conclusion that I wanted some more time with my wife,” he is now telling NPR of his second thoughts of the matter, calling his spouse Claudia Cuellar, “an amazing wife…everything a man could ask for in a partner I have found in a 5-foot-2-and-a-half-inch Colombian woman that is just a spitfire and incredible.”

“I just came to the conclusion that I wanted some more time with my wife.”

- Tomas Young

Cuellar – the caregiver who married Young in the spring of 2012, told the station:  “He’s really the one that’s carried me. He’s been so – as a partner – so patient with me. I’m kind of, a little bit on the crazy side.

“He’s just given me the space to be myself. So we definitely feel like it’s a joint partnership, like we’re here to support each other as human beings.”

NPR reports Young, seething with anger, joined the U.S. Army two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

A sniper’s bullet reportedly left him paralyzed below the waist in 2004, and a blood clot in his lungs later wrought the additional bodily havoc that left him a quadriplegic with gnarled hands and difficulty speaking.

Wracked by pain, the Kansas City man resolved to end his life earlier this year, despite having married Cuellar, the Buddhist caregiver with whom he had developed a profound relationship over a shared love of music and literature. 

"I've mourned the son that I sent to war, that didn't come home," his mother, Cathy Smith, told NPR in February. "I've mourned the grandchildren that I'll never have. The worst part about all of this for me is that none of this had to happen."

As for Young, he reportedly said during that dark time, "I decided that I was no longer going to watch myself deteriorate."

Now, while Young credits his wife with giving him the strength to push forward, the couple plan to attend an New Year’s Eve party at the Portland Art Museum, just one block from where they now live in Oregon. 

"We're really excited about dressing up and just rolling over one block to the museum and, you know, having a good time and looking forward to whatever time we can be together," Cuellar told the radio network.

As for Young, he’s not only looking ahead, but relishing the chance to lend inspiration to others in difficult straits.

"If you're in life and you start to think things are a little too rough to handle," he told NPR, "just think of me and what I go through, and you realize that ‘hey, I don't have it so bad.’"

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