A spinal injury left Iraq War veteran Tomas Young paralyzed below the waist in 2004. Further medical complications a few years later made him quadriplegic.
Although Young had enlisted two days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he became an outspoken anti-war activist.
KCUR’s Frank Morris spoke with him in April, after Young announced he would refuse medication and his feeding tube until he died.
“I decided that I was no longer going to watch myself deteriorate,” Young said at the time.
But somewhere along the way, he had a change of heart.
“I just came to the conclusion that I wanted some more time with my wife,” he tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “And I decided that I really don’t have the chutzpah to go ahead and do away with myself.”
Claudia Cuellar has been “an amazing wife,” he says. “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.”
But Cuellar says she’s the lucky one.
“Even though I’m technically his caregiver, he’s really the one that’s carried me. He’s been so — as a partner — so patient with me,” she says. “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.”
The couple now lives in Portland, Ore. On New Year’s Eve, they are going to a party at the Portland Art Museum.
“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 says.
Young says he wants those who are following his story to know he’s “hanging in there.”
“If you’re in life and you start to think things are a little too rough to handle,” he says, “just think of me and what I go through, and you realize that hey, I don’t have it so bad.”