Tomas Young is "ready to go" as he puts it. After nine years of suffering and with his body quickly deteriorating he has decided to end his struggle.
Young, 33, was paralyzed from the chest down by a sniper's bullet in a battle in Sadr City, Iraq on April 4, 2004, less than a week after he got to the country. He had joined the Army just two days after September 11, 2001 and assumed he would be sent to Afghanistan. Now nine years after that battle he is choosing to end his suffering. He is in hospice care and getting ready to die.
"I just decided that I was tired of seeing my body deteriorate and I want to go before it's too late," Young said in phone interview with ABC News from his home in Kansas City, Mo. "I've been doing this for the past nine years now…and I finally felt helpless every day and a burden to the people who take care of me and that's why I want to go."
Young and his wife Claudia Cuellar are receiving guests for a few more weeks. During that time, Young will say goodbye to friends and family and then will stop receiving medications, nourishment and water. They don't know how long it could be after that time he will die, but they believe it will be one to three weeks, but it could be as long as six weeks.
They don't consider it suicide, just an end to his suffering.
"I'm not the boy who would always think suicide if maybe something goes wrong," Young said. "I put lots of time into this. I considered the facts that people I know who love me and would prefer that I stick around, and my only hope is that they realize that they're being selfish in wanting me to just stick around and endure the pain."
Young and Cuellar have decided to go public with their story. First, in an article in theKansas City Star because they want to change the perception on death and dying in this country as well as continue to shine a light on the anti-Iraq war activism Young has been focused on since becoming paralyzed. He was the subject of a 2007 documentary produced by Phil Donahue. It showed Young dealing with the excruciating physical effects of his injury including post-traumatic stress, as well as his work against the Iraq war.
Cuellar says since the first story was written about his choice to die last week they have received mixed reactions of people supporting Young's decision as well as people urging him to "hang on" or "fight a little more." She says it's because people can't fathom his daily pain.
In 2008, he suffered a pulmonary embolism and anoxic brain injury which he believes was because he was taken off of blood thinners. It affected his speech as well as impaired the use of his arms. Cuellar and Young met when she saw the documentary and she began visiting him when he was in rehabilitation in Chicago after the embolism. They married last April.
"He was a para[plegic] and he was independent and functioning independently so he rolled the ball up the mountain to learn how to be a paraplegic and then four years later...he has the embolism he gets rolled back all the way down the mountain and he now has to live like a partial quadriplegic," Cuellar said.