by Haily Mae Dunn, , March 3, 2011

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When I was in my second year of college, I had the pleasure of meeting a person who has since become an inspiration to me. When I first met him, we did not necessarily see eye-to-eye and argued in our chemistry lab over who was smarter and who could get the job done right. After a semester of testing my limits, Josh Waggoner became a close friend of mine. We would hang out in between classes and at each others' houses, snowmobiling and making fun of each other. After I graduated from community college in the spring, we parted ways and neither of us kept close contact with one another.

However, by a twist of fate, we ran into each other a year-and-a-half later. Both of us had gone our separate ways of course, but it was nice seeing an old friend and catching up for the whole five minutes we got to see each other. After that, I spoke with Josh through texting a few times. We caught up, talking about school and where life had taken us. He told me about the girl he had recently fallen head over heels for, and I was so happy that he was getting things in order for himself.

A few weeks later, I was in my dorm room, when I got a text message from one of the RA's asking if I had heard about Josh's accident. At first, my heart fell to the floor, but after thinking about it for a minute, I remembered how much of a rough-houser Josh was, and reconsidered my original thought to myself. "It's probably nothing" I remember thinking. She told me to come see her so she could tell me about it. As I walked over to her office, I got a chill down my spine. I had that eerie feeling that something wasn't quite right. I walked in and she struck up normal conversation, asking how I was and what I had been up to. The tension I was feeling began to relax. If she wasn't making a big deal out of it, it must not be that bad. I reassured myself over and over that he was fine. And then she started telling me.

He had gone around a corner on his motorcycle, and it went out from under him just as he was rounding a corner. Rain had started to fall and his tire gave out. He went into the ditch, where someone stopped and found him. And then she said it... "He can't feel from his waist down as of right now." The words cut through me as tears filled my eyes. She finished by saying she had seen him that day and he was doing well, but that didn't make things better.

I called his cell phone, knowing I probably wouldn't be able to talk to him. I was tempted to drive to Syracuse to see him, but knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate on my finals, which were the following week. His mom answered the phone. I tried not to cry as I talked to her about what had happened. She was strong. She never faltered in telling me what had happened. She retold the story that my RA had just told me, only in more detail and with more precision. I listened intently telling her they were all in my thoughts and prayers. I asked if he was ever going to walk again. I heard her voice crack as she whispered, "It's not looking good right now."

How could this happen? Josh is not a careless person. He likes to have fun, but he is safe. He rides snowmobile, and four-wheeler, and motorcycle. He lives on his toys. He had been working on his car. He lived to be in nature. What was going to happen to all his dreams? My heart went out to him because I had been in a car accident two years before and I felt like my life was going to end. I was fine three months later, but Josh was not going to walk again.

I went to visit him the next week. I walked as slowly as I could to his room because I knew I was going to break down in tears when I walked in and saw him lying there. His girlfriend had been texting me letting me know when it was okay to come visit. When I walked in the room, a curtain separated me from him, his girlfriend, and his friend. I wanted to turn around and walk out. I could feel myself pulling backwards. Then, his girlfriend smiled and motioned for me to walk in. She was so composed at such a hard time, and I give her credit for being able to stop everything to be by his side. She was the girl Josh had described to me only weeks before. I smiled inside as I walked around the curtain. As I started coming around the corner, Josh greeted me with a loud, warm "hello." He was lying in the bed with nothing but a positive attitude by his side. I couldn't believe it.

It's funny how some people can rise above what is happening to them and look at the bright side. He was alive, and that is all he needed. I don't know why I ever questioned whether or not he was going to be okay. I should have known. Josh is strong, and when you have hope, you don't need anything else.

I saw Josh a few times after that. I went to visit him in the hospital a few times, and I also went to the benefit held for his behalf. That was the first time I saw him in a wheelchair, and honestly, he was the same Josh I had always known. He was funny, cracking jokes about others, and at his own expense. He was smiling, never letting anyone get him down. He was happy. He is still the same Josh. He doesn't want people to feel sorry for him. He is strong, independent, and determined. The last thing he wants is for people to look at him as though he has changed. Just because he has had to make a few lifestyle adjustments, doesn't mean his personality is different. He will always be the heartfelt, kind, caring, strong-willed Josh I have known since community college. He has everyone he needs by his side, which is half the battle. He has proven to me that things happen in life we cannot control, but if we rise above it, we can overcome it.

Josh would blush if someone told him he was their hero. He would insist that he was no one's hero, and that he is just another person fighting his way through life. Well, I can say that Josh is a hero to more people than he may think. He is an inspiration to all those who have watched him over the past few months to overcome his struggles. He has gone back to school, and he insists on finishing his college degree. He won't stop until he gets what he wants in life, which is something we all can admire in another human being. The best thing about him is he will never stop fighting. There have been days of pain and suffering. He has gone through hell in therapy sessions, building strength. No one can say this has been easy for him, but he will come out on top in the end.

It is funny what a positive attitude and a little hope can do for someone.

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