'You can't live your life for someone else'

Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Print Editor
Recovering at home, he awoke Nov. 26, 2007, to discover wires protruding from his sides. He called the Cleveland Clinic where he’d had the procedure and was told to get to the Louisville VA Hospital immediately. Louisville told him they couldn’t do anything for him. Despite his bleeding wounds, he made the five-hour trip east, by car.
Things got worse.
Hack had a serious staph infection. Every day for a week, nurses removed the computer, cleaned it, then reinserted it; Hack didn’t want to give up hope. One day a nurse came into his room with dire news. “She told me I was gonna die if they didn’t take the computer out.” Hack told them to remove the device immediately. 
While he was in the clinic, he had visits from representatives of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Hack is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “Every day they would come by and ask me to join. I joined so they would quit coming in my room!” he said. “My life changed because I wanted those people to leave me alone.”
Hack didn’t get involved with PVA immediately. A couple years after he’d recovered, he was thumbing through one of the organization’s magazines and saw an opportunity for someone in a wheelchair to go on an Alaskan bear hunt.
Hack was in.
“I love to hunt,” he said, gesturing to the walls of his rural Campbellsburg home, lined with trophies including deer, turkey and fish. “Most of those I killed from my wheelchair.”
He didn’t get a bear on the hunt, but it was a life-changing experience. Grateful for the opportunity, Hack felt obligated to give back and started volunteering at the Louisville PVA chapter.
Today, Hack is a national vice-president for the organization. He travels the country on a regular basis, testifies on behalf of paralyzed veterans before Congress and helps change veterans’ lives.
Hack’s life changed forever 24 years ago, on Jan. 17, 1994, when the worst snow since the blizzard of ‘77 buried the area. Hack had pulled his wife behind a vehicle on an inner tube on the snow-covered Big Springs Road where they lived, having winter fun. They switched places. “I’ll never forget how beautiful it was in the snow, going up the hill and looking at the lights in our house in the woods. It was just so pretty.” About 300 yards later, the inner tube crashed into a tree, leaving Hack with a severe head injury, broken ribs and, what nobody realized at the time, a severed spinal cord.
Because of the poor road conditions, it took almost 40 minutes for an ambulance to respond. Hack was having trouble breathing due to his chest injuries and was combative when EMTs tried to place him in a C collar, used to stabilize the neck and spine. His wife signed a release and he was loaded onto a backboard without the collar, transferred to a stretcher and rushed to Washington County Memorial Hospital. Later that night, he was flown to the University of Louisville, where he was in intensive care for a week, then spent another six days on the regular floor. It took 50 staples to close his head wound. Four vertebrae were crushed and the spinal cord severed at T6, leaving Hack a paraplegic.
He was then moved to rehab, where he was told he’d remain for at least nine months. “I asked, ‘Will I be able to walk?” They said, ‘No, you’ll never walk.’ I said, ‘Get my stuff, I’m going home.’”
Read Albertson's full story in today's issue of The Salem Leader.


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