December 8, 2016

Young stands strong

Doctors told Andrew Young he would be paralyzed from the shoulders down after he was in a car accident his sophomore year of high school. When Young came in for a check-up months later, he proved the diagnosis was incorrect.

“Whenever the doctor walked into the patient room to talk to me, I stood up, I walked to him, shook his hand and said ‘thank you doctor’ and his jaw dropped,” Young said.

Young, a senator in Webster’s Student Government Association (SGA), said he took a devastating loss and turned it into something positive. Now, Young works to help people with disabilities.

Andrew Young is a senator for Student Government Association (SGA) and advocates for disabilities rights. TIFFANY GORDON / The Journal

Andrew Young is a senator for Student Government Association (SGA) and advocates for disabilities rights. TIFFANY GORDON / The Journal

A semi-truck struck Young’s  truck while he was traveling to his high school near Farmington when he was 16. Emergency crews had to cut off the top of Young’s truck to pull him out because he was trapped in the wreckage.  First responders contacted emergency air evacuation to transport Young to St. Louis for treatment, but weather conditions made it difficult for the helicopter to land.

“They said the clouds would interfere with that but then they found out how old I was and they suited up and said yes, they would try,” Young said.

Young had only one broken bone from the crash. Unfortunately the bone was his C4 spinal vertebra, an area responsible for the body’s ability to move.

“I couldn’t even walk, I couldn’t move my arms, my fingers or anything,” Young said.

Young’s parents never told him about the doctor’s belief that he would never walk again because they did not want him to give up.  Young, who was active in sports in high school, said he never accepted how bad it really was.

“I thought I would be okay,” Young said. “I would recover and go back to playing sports, but a couple months later, I started to realize that may not happen.  That’s when it started to bother me.”

Torie Young, Andrew Young’s mother, said he was totally paralyzed for three months, but when he gained the ability to walk, the difference was clear in his personality.

“It was just like a new kid,” Torie Young said.  “When he was able to drive again he drove over to the LIFE Center and told them he wanted to help.”

The Living Independently For Everyone Center (LIFE), located in Farmington, helps people with disabilities attain independent living and promotes issues related to individuals with physical impairments.

“I advocated for accessibility issues and disability rights both at the local level and the state level,” Andrew Young said. “I went out and I talked to politicians about issues that were affecting everyday citizens and their constituents that just really didn’t have much of a voice.”

Torie Young said the center gave her son material to read and included him on a trip to Jefferson City to speak to state officials.  Andrew Young stayed up the night before memorizing the material because he wanted lawmakers to take him seriously.

“He understood the importance of, yes I’m able to stand here and talk for myself and talk about disability rights, but there’s a whole lot of people out there who can’t,” Torie Young said.  “I wish I could take credit for this child but he goes far above and beyond me.”

Andrew Young's truck at the crash site. TERESA RESSEL / The Journal

Andrew Young’s truck at the crash site. TERESA RESSEL / The Daily Journal

Andrew Young said one of the leaders of the group said he looked like “a kid on Christmas morning” while advocating for disability rights to state officials in Jefferson City, and things clicked.

“I really liked it up there,” Andrew Young said. “It was amazing, and ever since then I’ve just been stuck to it.”

Kat Bush, a fellow senator in SGA, said everyone in SGA knew Andrew Young would bring passion to student government.

“Everyone was really excited about Andrew,” Bush said.  “He was going to add something that was really needed at SGA.”

Andrew Young is currently working on increasing participation among young voters for the upcoming presidential elections and bringing Missouri’s Attorney General Chris Koster, the Democratic candidate for governor, to Webster for a debate. Andrew Young recognizes he takes on a lot, but said the ability to see tomorrow keeps him going. He understands people have different opinions on religion, but said he believes there is something behind him surviving the crash.

“I somewhat believe that I’ve been kept here for a reason,” Andrew Young said. “I guess living to see what that reason is keeps me going.”

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