AJ Hunt has never been the type to complain.
Instead, he tries to focus on working hard, achieving goals. He looks on the bright side.
That approach is serving him well now. Hunt, 21, of Richland, was seriously hurt in a car wreck in August while he was headed with some friends back to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
He suffered a spinal cord injury and is paralyzed from the chest down. Now out of the hospital, he’s staying with family in Utah while he takes part in physical and occupational therapy to regain as much movement and feeling as possible and learn to navigate the world anew.
The situation is “obviously not ideal,” Hunt said. “But I like to keep the attitude that there’s nothing you can do to change it, so you just have to worry about what you can do. What I can do is therapy and stay positive and have goals.”
He added that his faith and support from family, friends and the community are helping sustain him.
Hunt is the son of John and Becca Hunt of Richland. His three younger brothers are Jaron, Brad and Caleb.
The Hunts have medical insurance, but it doesn’t cover everything and costs are piling up. A pizza dinner, silent auction and bake sale fundraiser is planned Nov. 22 at Jason Lee Elementary School in Richland.
The wreck happened on the evening of Aug. 27, near Battle Mountain, Nev. Hunt had been in California for a summer job and was headed toward Provo in the backseat of a friend’s car when the driver lost control and the car flipped.
Everyone else walked away unhurt, but Hunt wasn’t so lucky. He told the Herald in September that he heard his neck crack and knew immediately something was wrong. It turned out some vertebrae were fractured and dislocated.
Hunt now is staying at his grandparents’ house in Murray, Utah, while he continues his therapy. His mother is with him.
She said she’s impressed with her son’s resilience. “I marvel at his ability to accept these (challenges) and continue to have the drive and the focus to improve. He just continues to want to experience life and be happy,” she told the Herald.
Hunt attended Richland High School and also took classes at Columbia Basin College, earning his high school diploma and associate’s degree in 2011. He was at BYU for a semester before embarking on a two-year mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nicaragua.
He returned last December.
Hunt is studying finance and plans to take some online courses next semester. His goal is to be back at BYU next fall.
He and his mom are returning to the Tri-Cities for the fundraiser and Thanksgiving, and then they’ll head back to Utah so Hunt can continue his rehabilitation. Having the family split up has been difficult, and they’re hoping to find a better arrangement soon, Becca Hunt said.
She said she didn’t previously grasp how overwhelming dealing with such an injury can be. “All of the aspects of your life change. I really appreciate that now. We don’t know about his health and where it’s going to go. That kind of describes our life at this moment — everything is up in the air,” she told the Herald.
But she said her family has been touched by the support they’ve received from relatives, friends and even strangers. “The kindness and the concern that’s been shown to (AJ), I think it’s helped him to be more determined to just press forward and to strive to get better and to reach out to others,” Becca Hunt said.
“What our friends back home are doing — and the community is doing — is amazing,” she said.
AJ Hunt said he wants people to know that, “I’m working as hard as I can and that all the thoughts and prayers are appreciated.
“And, I’m going to get better.”