It wasn't all bad...

The week's good news: November 7, 2019

Catherine Garcia
Alex Trebek.
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP


Man paralyzed in accident able to move his legs again after experimental surgery

Ryan Straschnitzki surprised everyone on Monday when he started moving his legs, extending one so far that he almost kicked his therapist. The 20-year-old from Alberta, Canada, was in a bus crash last year that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He learned about an experimental surgery that involves implanting an epidural stimulator in the spine, with the hope it will restore some leg movement. He decided to give it a shot and went to Thailand for the procedure. Surgeons and therapists map out the nerves that should be stimulated, and the device sends out electrical currents, bypassing traditional pathways and reawakening those that are dormant. The surgery has only been performed on 30 people, and Straschnitzki's mother, Michelle, told CBC News as soon as her son's legs moved, "He was as surprised as the rest of us. It just blows me away." Straschnitzki is hoping to make Canada's Paralympics sledge hockey team. [CBC News]


Teen Jeopardy! champ donates portion of winnings to cancer research in honor of Alex Trebek

Avi Gupta has always looked up to Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, and after winning the game show's Teen Tournament this June, he knew exactly where a portion of his winnings would go. Gupta, 18, took home $100,000, and he's donating $10,314 — an homage to pi — to pancreatic cancer research. Trebek shared in March that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Gupta, a freshman at Columbia University, said he was "devastated" by Trebek's diagnosis and "knew that whatever I could do to help, I was going to try and do that — not just for him, but for the millions of others who suffer from cancer." Trebek is spending this month educating the public about the risks and symptoms of pancreatic cancer, and Gupta said he knows that if "anyone can beat this disease and this diagnosis, it's Alex." [ABC Los Angeles]


Boss pays off hard-working employee's mortgage so he can retire early

Albert Brigas planned on retiring next year when his mortgage was paid off, but his boss decided to make his dream come true a little sooner. A Vietnam War veteran, Brigas started as a mechanic at Renown Auto Restoration in San Antonio, Texas, in 2006. His boss, Rudy Quinones, was always impressed by Brigas and his tenacity. "He would come into work every day even when he was sick," Quinones told KENS5. "Just that level of loyalty, the determination you just don't find anymore." Quinones knew about Brigas' retirement plan, and called him into his office. He asked Brigas how much he owed on his mortgage, and soon, the two were headed down to the bank to make a final $5,000 payment. Brigas said it's clear Quinones "cares about his people." Brigas has been retired now for less than a week, and is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren. [KENS5]


First-of-its-kind Rotary Club is for veterans who want to help other veterans

A special Rotary Club in Minnesota has one goal: To help veterans assist other veterans. The idea for the club came to co-founder Tom Gump in July, after he hosted a dinner for vets. The Rotary Club is a service organization that aims to advance goodwill and peace around the world, and this chapter will focus on different projects to help local veterans. The Rotary Club of Minnesota Veterans launched in October, and there are already 40 members, men and women in their 20s all the way to their 90s. While they are a brand new club, Gump said he's already talked with Rotary leaders in other states who are interested in starting similar chapters. "I'm just excited to see what this club has done a year from now," Gump told the Star Tribune. "There's so much passion here." [The Star Tribune]


Nurse steps in to make heart transplant a reality for patient

When Lori Wood, a nurse at Piedmont Newnan Hospital in Georgia, found out last December that one of her patients was removed from the heart transplant list, she knew she had to do whatever it took to get him back on it. Jonathan Pinkard, 27, has autism, and was removed from the list because he didn't have anyone to drive him to appointments and ensure he took his anti-rejection medications. Wood decided to ask Pinkard if she could become his legal guardian. "It was a no-brainer," she told Today. Wood and Pinkard have grown close, and together at home, they watch football and Family Feud. "He is very loving," Wood said. Pinkard's heart transplant was in August, and Wood kept her promise, helping him keep track of his medicine and driving him to doctor's appointments. "She treats me like one of her sons," Pinkard said. "I am truly thankful for that." [Today]