It is the day John Paul was paralyzed on the practice field in front of PCHS. As a 14-year-old freshman, John Paul made the tackle on the last play of practice. It would be his last play ever.
Ten years later and now 24 years old, John Paul said it was also the day that he had to put his faith and trust in his Lord and Savior.
“I was a Christian,” he said. “But the accident has made me depend and trust Him more.”
John Paul’s favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
John Paul said he tries to live by that.
“I have been told that I have touched a lot of lives,” he said. “I hope it has brought someone else closer to the Lord. The accident has been a blessing in a way. It has allowed me to meet so many different people that I would not have met had it not happened. There is a reason why it happened, and I know it is for the best.”
John Paul is the son of Paul and Tina Montgomery. He said he would not be able to make it without his parents.
“They have to do for me every day,” he said. “They have dedicated their lives to make sure my life is as happy as it can be. They do more for me than anyone. I thank God for them every day.”
John Paul said other family members – sister, brother-in-law, brother and nephew – along with a couple of friends will do anything for him.
With a spinal cord injury, John Paul was flown by LifeSaver helicopter from the practice field to Children’s Hospital that day.
He stayed in the hospital for about a month, then came months and months of rehab, and there have been additional surgeries.
But listen to all of the accomplishments in the past 10 years.
He graduated from Pell City High School in 2007 at the top of his class.
He attended UAB, and last December 12, he graduated with a degree in psychology.
He is able to drive his own modified truck, and now wants to go back to either UAB or the University of Alabama and get a Masters or Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Tina said her son has come a long way in 10 years.
“We are very proud of him, because we know God has picked him up and carried him through a very difficult time,” she said. “He has accomplished way more than we ever dreamed possible. Even the doctors are amazed. He has accomplished more than anyone ever imagined.”
Tina said that before the injury, John Paul was headed in a different direction, and wanted to go in the medical profession.
“But God had a bigger plan for his life, and God always knows best,” she said. “Through all the adversity he faces day to day, he maintains a good attitude about it. God has used him to touch many people. People in this community and people across this state. He has a great testimony.”
Tina said they have never questioned God why this happened to their son.
“I just know that through this, it has made us a stronger family unit,” she said. “Our faith in the Lord has increased. God has put so many special people in our lives for different reasons. All of them have done some amazing things for John Paul and us.”
Tina said when she hears people mumble and grumble about little things, she wishes they could live in their house for just 24 hours.
“They cannot imagine the things he faces from day to day,” Tina said.
“They would never complain again. He is just an amazing person. I know God has given him the strength to make it from day to day.”
Tina said she prays every day for God’s plan to continue in their lives.
We take it one day at a time,” she said. “John Paul was in the hospital back during the summer and was very sick. It was something that had been coming on for a long time, but with his paralysis from the chest down, you don’t know that he is sick. It’s like a guessing game, so we just pray for God to send the doctors. He had to transfer from Children’s Hospital to adult doctors now. We made that transition this past summer, and we are learning to trust new doctors.”
John Paul’s mom also said the inability to walk is not the major issue he faces with paralysis.
“He faces things every day, and because of the spinal cord injury, he has had many surgeries,” Tina said. “When he gets sick, it is major.”
Tina said she wanted to let John Paul know how proud she is of how he has dealt with the past decade.
“As a mother, I realize the struggles he has every day,” she said. “I realize the effort he has to put in every day. It does not matter if it is fixing his own meal, getting a shower, driving to UAB, or his schoolwork.
He can do anything that he sets his mind to. He has been successful, and I know he will continue to be successful. But only with God’s strength.”
Tina said they have met many families in the past 10 years who have dealt with spinal cord injuries.
“A lot of families have not been able to deal with it the way John Paul has,” she said. “We try to reach out to these families. Many times, the doctors reach out to him and ask him to go to the hospitals and talk to these people who have been injured and their families.”
Two of John Paul’s favorite things – hunting and Alabama Crimson Tide football.
Contact Gary Hanner at firstname.lastname@example.org.