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Powered by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Updated: 4:40 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010 | Posted: 4:34 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010
By Péralte C. Paul
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Kerry Ruffin could be forgiven if he were angry at the hand he was dealt 10 years ago.
As a wrestler at Sandy Creek High, he was injured during a match in 2000 and became paralyzed after suffering three broken vertebrae in his neck.
Then, a week after that Jan. 15 accident, his Fayette County home burned down.
But the 27-year-old Atlantan isn't one to dwell on what could have been. He's centered on what can be.
"I don't ever look down on the situation," he said. "As long as I'm here, I'm good."
Ruffin owns Upscale Customs, an Atlanta auto detailing company he started in 2006.
The company does everything from installing radio and sound systems to customizing cars, including exterior body paint jobs and tricked-out rims and wheels.
He also manages two up-and-coming Georgia rap artists in another business venture, Making Moves Inc., that has him splitting his time between Atlanta and Valdosta.
"I'm always doing something," Ruffin said. "As long as I'm doing something, I'm happy."
He credits that outlook on his mother and friends who encouraged him, supported him and kept him focused on goals.
First goal: Graduate. The accident resulted in weekly therapy sessions during the day, so he went to school at night to be able to graduate on time with his class in 2001.
Then, after taking a three-year break, he started college at Clark Atlanta University in 2004 and majored in business management.
He said he stopped his studies three years after that -- roughly 35 credits shy of his degree -- because he ran out of money.
Then tragedy struck again.
His mother and biggest supporter, Linda Ruffin, died in 2006.
She was the one who kept his doctors' appointments and ensured he got the care he needed.
"I was lost; I didn't know what to do," he said.
He says he's still at a loss on some things regarding some of his ongoing medical needs, things that his mom would take care of so he never had to worry.
"To this day, I still don't know a few things that I need to know," he said. "Some of that stuff, I'm still lost on."
After the accident, his doctors said he'd likely never walk again.
He can't walk, but he highlights the things he can do.
"Physically, I am doing better," Ruffin said. "I gained most of my feeling back, but the walking process, that's hard. I can stand up, but as far as walking, no."
Not that he has allowed the accident to define him. He does what any able-bodied 27-year-old single guy would do.
"You can catch me anytime in a club," he said with a laugh.
"Most people would sit at home and get depressed, but you've got to keep it moving," Ruffin said. "Life goes on."
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