‘You just feel grateful in some weird way’: Man paralyzed in freak accident just thankful to be alive

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Thursday was just another normal day for Kevin Breen.  He pulled his semi into a stop near Tulsa and unhitched his trailer.

He pulled the fifth-wheel release and felt a pop between his shoulders.  He shrugged it off, hopped back in the cab and drove toward home.

"So about an hour, hour and a half later he took it off cruise control and thought 'oh my God,' I can't feel my legs," his wife Jamie recalled. Her husband called for help. "He tried to walk from the truck, just a step or two, and he collapsed into the car. And that's when everything just kind of went numb."

His coworkers took Kevin to OU Medical Center, where after an MRI he learned he will likely never walk again.

A shattered disc in his back bruised Kevin's spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the arms down.

"You just feel grateful in some weird way, just happy like 'that's it,'" said Jamie Breen. "It's almost a relief."

Relief is not the word you typically associate with paralysis, but Kevin Breen is not your typical patient.

"He's very positive," said Jamie Breen as she described a young, strong man she married 17 years ago. "He feels even though he won't have his legs and things like that any more, he's just gained so much from this. It really gave him this great perspective on life and he's ready to start living. You can't compare yesterday with today and you just have to get out there and you have to live and be the best person you can be, whether you can walk or not."

Photos of Kevin Breen show him smiling in a neck brace in his hospital bed inside the intensive care unit.

His wife says he came out ahead.  The man who worked 16 hours a day, often six days a week will now be able to spend time at home with his two boys, attending football games and band concerts he missed in the past.

Jamie Breen promises they'll still be exploring and adventuring -- "just in a wheelchair now."

"He's just so ready to get out and live and do the things he can," she said. "He's not a sit-in-front-of-the-tv kind of guy and he just wants to get out and experience life."

Before he does that, Kevin will have to undergo 2-3 months of rehab at a facility in Colorado.

His coworkers at Conway are already talking about building a home ramp and an all-terrain wheelchair for a man they already admired.

"He just has such a good spirit, he's always been so positive," said Andrew Lawrence, who's known Breen for about a year. "He's the kind of guy that has to bring a smile to your face.

"This happened to Kevin for a reason," Lawrence said. "God gave this man a gift. It may not seem like it, but there could be someone in the same situation that could not see any hope. I wanted his story to be heard."