Degrees, business and books, nothing stops this man – Eastern Arizona Courier

Posted: October 27, 2020 at 4:58 pm


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When Beth Ann Russell got her youngest sons diagnosis, she was beyond devastated. She was told he had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and the preschooler wouldnt live past 18.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a rare incurable disorder that causes progressive muscular weakness. Fewer than 200,000 US cases are diagnosed per year in the U.S. Many with the disease ultimately succumb to acute respiratory failure.

To say Safford resident Ryan Russell has beaten the odds is an understatement.

Now 38, Russell has a doctorate in psychology, recently launched his own life coaching business, and is getting ready to publish a series of fiction novels.

Ive always felt that I have some kind of purpose and until that purpose is done Im not going anywhere, Ryan said.

Beth Ann describes her son as determined and intelligent.

Hes always been quite independent, wanting to do everything himself, she said. I just hope everybody gets to know someone like Ryan. Hes wonderful.

It has not been an easy road.

When in elementary school, Ryan was constantly bullied by his classmates. At one point kids hurt Russell so badly he experienced lower intestinal bleeding. It was the last straw for his mother.

I put him in the wheelchair because kids were so mean to him, pushing him down and hurting him, she said.

Before that, she would carry him on her back to get him from place to place.

In his younger years he had anger issues, she said.

However, the turning point for Russell was when one teacher took him aside in fifth grade.

One teacher, he said, OK. Its wiped clean. You can start over again, Beth Ann Russell said.

Going to college was completely his idea once it became apparent he would live long enough to go, his mom said.

He would set goals and he would always reach them. He was always on a goal, she said.

Russell, who graduated from Safford High School, received a bachelors degree in archeology from Eastern Arizona College in 2004. His interest turned to psychology and he earned a masters degree in the field of education in counseling and human relations in 2008 from Northern Arizona University at the Thatcher campus.

Each of his degrees were earned thanks to online programs.

Basically I had to wait for technology to catch up to people who are disabled, Russell said. Technology has opened up a lot of opportunities. If you have internet, youve got access.

Russell obtained his masters degree in education in counseling and human relations. However, before he could obtain his teaching certificate, he caught pneumonia, which can be a death sentence for someone with his illness.

Although he came through it, he decided he didnt want to spend more time in the education program and decided to pursue his doctorate in psychology from Northcentral University. He received his degree in June. Knowing he may be on borrowed time, however, he has opted not to become a fully licensed psychologist.

Every state has different requirements. In the state of Arizona last I checked you needed 3,200 hours within two years of monitored therapy or working with people, he said.

He wants to help people with the knowledge he now possesses.

So, he created his life coaching business: Life on Positivity.

Id rather spend the time I have being a life coach. I can use my psychology degree and I can help people right now, Russell said. What I want to do is help people move past tasks or blocks. Ive been there, what I want to do is help people become the 2.0 version of themselves.

Russell continues to push past his own blocks.

Just last year, he decided to take a test ride in a wheelchair accessible van. He rode in the front seat for the first time since he was a teenager.

At 37-years-old I teared up because I had forgotten how great it felt, the freedom I felt of riding in that front seat. You can see everything. Everything started coming into view, and I realized I had been holding myself back. Its what really moved me, Russell said.

Hes decided to save enough money to purchase his own van.

Moving toward the future, Russell said most of his life coaching sessions will be online.

He will work with someone face to face if they request it, but he intends to use Zoom most of the time for his coaching sessions.

Russell is also in the process of publishing a series of books called The Avenging Angel. His series revolves around the missions of a military man whose life is dedicating to fighting sex traffickers. He hopes to have the first book, The Rectifier, published toward the end of the year.

Well, none of us know how much time you have because time is finite. I have these books and things that I feel like I need to do, but as an individual, with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, I dont know how much time I have, Russell said. If someone were to look up Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy they will see that a 38-year-old with it is well beyond the average life expectancy. So Im trying to do get everything done while I can.

Russell will also be doing a series of webinars for the Jett Foundation, which raises money for research and helps families of those living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy purchase handicap conversion vans.

Im really looking forward to this opportunity to help these young people with what I have, Russell said. I will get to be a teacher and mentor for them. I guess you could say right now Im doing a book, a business, and charity work, and I love it.

When hes not writing and reading, Russell enjoys genealogy and playing computer games. Although his parents are not his primary caretakers anymore, Ryan lives with them. In a sense, their roles have been reversed. Beth Ann, 80, said Ryan helps her schedule appointments, work on the computer and manage her bank account. She said she wouldnt know what she and her husband would do without him.

He owes much of his success to his parents, who would do anything for him, Russell said.

I practically have to fight them sometimes to take care of themselves because they are so worried about me, he said. Its not just school and work. Every date I ever had or dance. They had to stay up to put me in bed. Up until 2018, my parents were the ones that put me in bed.

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Degrees, business and books, nothing stops this man - Eastern Arizona Courier

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October 27th, 2020 at 4:58 pm

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