Two choices: live or die

Mark Zupan, a Paralympian who has recently won a gold medal in Beijing, has starred in “Murderball” and has written a book titled “Gimp,” spoke on Thursday in honor of disability week.

“Fifteen years ago when I first got hurt, I thought my life was over,” Zupan said. When Zupan was 18 years old, he was asleep in the back of a friend’s pickup truck when he was thrown from the truck, over a fence and into a canal, which resulted in his being paralyzed.

After spending 14 hours in the water, he was found by a passerby who heard a faint repetitive voice then saw the top of his head. “The only thing above water was my eyes, my nose, my mouth and my arm,” Zupan said.

Even though Zupan has been through so much, “he is a great example of perseverance and positive thinking,” Edward Martinelli Jr., accessibility services director said in his introduction.

When Zupan woke up in ICU, the first thing he communicated was, “I am lucky.” After spending three months in the hospital, he realized, “There are ultimately two choices in life — you can live or you can die.”

“The best thing that probably happened (after finishing his time in the hospital and rehab) was I got my license back. I say that because you have your independence back, you can go and come as you please,” Zupan said.

The next stage of his life took him back to college at Florida Atlantic University. He later transferred to Georgia Tech, where he graduated in civil engineering. Zupan said going back to college was the next best thing that happened to him.

While at Georgia Tech, he took up wheelchair rugby. “I found rugby and fell in love with it almost instantly,” he said. This led to him being the star of the documentary, writing his autobiography, winning numerous medals and most recently being a part of Team USA to win gold in Beijing.

So what’s next for Zupan? “I want to do an Ironman triathlon, and I want to teach because it is fun and you can see the benefit from that,” he said.

Zupan said, “The big thing that I’ve learned is that everybody has their own disability, everyone has something that goes wrong in their life, it doesn’t have to be seen. Life is short, enjoy it.”

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