Ron Heagy gives Isbell
students new outlook

February 23, 2000
Santa Paula News
Isbell Middle School students received a wake-up call on Monday, February 7, when quadriplegic, Ron Heagy, described the alternative to making poor choices in life. In 1980, Heagy, a high school senior, with a college football scholarship that would enable him to follow an athletic path of choice was suddenly snatched into a path of immobilization. Heagy described himself to the students as an arrogant, overly confident teenager at the time of the accident.Surfing was one of the few sports he was not involved in, so he decided to try. Unfortunately, his first attempt to ride the waves ended in a catastrophic accident that ended his potential for an athletic career.``When a mountainous swell came toward shore, I dove under it, striking a hidden sandbar headfirst,'' Heagy said. ``It all happened so quickly. One minute I was carefree and challenging the currents, the next instant my broken body was being swept out to sea.''Heagy's brother, Mike, was the one who saved his life.``Mike is my kid brother. I didn't want to bring him on the trip, but as it turned out it was he who saved my life,'' said Heagy ``Mike had been dozing on the beach, when he suddenly sat up, saw my trunks tumbling through the breakers, and came to my rescue.''A sound of silence permeated the Isbell Middle School cafeteria as nearly 400 students and staff sat mesmerized by Heagy's stories of life.Doctors told Heagy his neck was broken, and his spinal cord had been partially severed. He explained that after the accident, he could not lift one little finger. And, he would never again be able to shave himself, shower unassisted, dress alone, feed himself, or hug someone he loved. He would never again be able to wrestle, play football, lift weights, or ride his motorcycle. From that point his wheelchair became his mode of transportation.``When my parents came to the hospital after the accident, my Mother hugged me and when I couldn't feel her embrace, it nearly broke my heart,'' said Heagy. ``I just wanted to die!''Since then, Heagy has turned into a productive citizen with all the amenities life has to offer, but...the use of his body.Sharing with the students Haegy said his special burden is for young people. Some are suicidal because of drugs, alcohol, or parental abuse, and others, like himself, must cope with physical limitations. He impressed on the students how important it is to be a good friend to someone in trouble, and not leave them simply because they are different.
``You can never see with your eyes how bad someone is hurting inside,'' said Haegy, ``they look the same from the outside as anyone else.'' After many months of surgeries, extensive physical therapy, and spending time in the hospital feeling sorry for himself his eight-year-old, brain damaged roommate helped him regain self-esteem and make him realize that happiness comes from helping others.``I realized then that God had a plan and a purpose for my life,'' said Haegy.Later he learned to paint with a brush held in his mouth. Today his oil paintings are being sold nationwide. After earning a bachelor's degree at Christian Heritage College, Haegy went on to San Diego State and graduated summa cum laude with a master's degree in social work.``Since all my assignments were typed on a computer keyboard with a stick held between my teeth, one newspaper reporter wrote: ``Ron Heagy, Jr., may well be the only student who has mouthed his way through the master's program.'' (Smile)In 1992, Haegy married Christy. Both he and his wife travel around the nation speaking to audiences of all ages. He brings hope to those who believe they have no reason to live.In addition to painting, Haegy has published a book titled Life is an Attitude. One of his dreams was to build a place that disabled people could come for camping, counseling, fun and fellowship. He recalled that even before his injury, while he was in grade school, his class went on a camping trip, but one of his disabled friends was not able to go because the facility was not wheelchair accessible. So...``Camp Attitude'' has become a reality.If you are interested in having Haegy speak at a special event, or if you would like to purchase one of his paintings or a copy of his book, you can contact him at: Life is an Attitude, 32326 Old Oak Drive, Tangent, OR 97389, phone: (541) 924-1400, or E-mail:, or visit his web site:

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