John Kennedy Rizzo

John Kennedy Rizzo


"Rising from Hell answers all the questions." --Bernie Siegel MD

    Rising from Hell is a story of human triumph!  The victim of a devastating motorcycle accident, author John Kennedy Rizzo knows too well of the social, spiritual and medical aspects of traumatic brain injury.  Rising from Hell traces his path through partial paralysis, incapacitating depression, and terrifying panic attacks.  On his long road to rehabilitation and recovery, Rizzo discovered ways to overcome near impossible odds.  He speaks with compassion and wisdom as he encourages brain-injured people to find their way back to the enabled life that may very well lie within their grasp.

    Over two million people in the United States suffer from head trauma and its effects every year.  Every fifteen seconds someone in the U.S. suffers from brain injury.  Every five minutes, one of those people will die.  Another will be permanently disabled.  The tragic consequences results in 500,000 hospitalizations, causes an estimated 100,000 deaths, leaves 90,000 victims permanently disabled and puts 2,000 into vegetative states, and costs more than $4 billion in direct medical expenses. 

   "I was in a hospital with a severe brain injury.  I was semi-paralyzed on my right side: I couldn't speak or eat.  I had double vision.  I couldn't walk.  And I was strapped to a bed for my own protection.  But I do remember that room in the rehabilitation hospital--it was like no other room.  More things happened to me in that one small space than had happened to me in my entire life.  Strange and bizarre things happened to me in that room: revelations and realities of life and death were unfolded and displayed before me in that room.  I had entered into another dimension there and traveling down a long and dark corridor I was embraced by light and energies everywhere, forces that I somehow knew where the very things that made up the composition of the entire universe.  My entire life from birth to death and beyond was played before me in that single room...and I knew that I needed to tap into this reality so exciting and strange."

   There we sat, strapped to the wheelchairs and to the handrails that lined the walls outside our rooms, staring at each other (motionless and blank-faced), looking at and through each other when we were not facing the floor.  Like spirits trapped inside dying bodies, there we sat examining each other.  This went on for however long a time we were there: slightly moving our heads now and then, fixing on a point in time and space, and then letting go and absorbing all that we could from within our own single gaze, from within our very own personal angle and range of focus.  This was our entire world  And there was this fantastic energy in our stare: our life-blood, our complete and entire reality: our focus.  It was as we had X-ray vision, and we were actually staring right through the walls into something bigger than was actually there, there in that room, in that place.  And I believe we were, in fact, staring into something far bigger than was actually there.  All our mind's entire existence went into whatever direction we faced.

   I remember looking at the others, and as I looked, they appeared to be unreal and synthetic: they looked as if they were just created from some test tube or some plastic chamber.  Matter of fact, exactly like the chambers that lined the wall next to the nurses station.  These odd containers, they sat in individual rows and shelves.  They were rectangular, clear plastic, cylinder-like chambers with bright blue lights shinning down on them.  The place where these chambers were located seemed to occupy a very secretive and important area of the hospital.  It looked to be an extremely secretive operation and experiment going on with these containers and all.  And it was all very suspicious.  Whatever was inside those chambers took the attention of many people.  In fact, an entire station guarded them continually around the clock.  People were peering in at them and recording whatever was going on inside them.  I imagined embryos being incubated, and in this, bodies, new bodies were given to the patients who had lost most of their old ones.  And I imagined these same bodies outside my room--staring at me--also coming from these chambers.

    Born in the Bronx, NY, John Kennedy Rizzo moved to Connecticut for graduate school and a subsequent teaching career.  He earned a BS sociology, an MS in urban studies and a 6th year degree in secondary education management.  He currently conducts research on access and mobility for persons with disability.