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Wheelchair pool champ: 'Just don't quit'

By Mark Jones, Special to CNN
updated 2:46 PM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
  • Mark "the Snake" Jones is one of the world's top wheelchair pool players
  • Forty years ago, Jones considered suicide after a life-changing car accident
  • He credits the love of his mother for helping him survive

Editor's note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle -- injury, illness or other hardship -- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week we meet Mark "the Snake" Jones. Competitors on the circuit call him "the Snake" because of his vicious plays on the pool table. Jones has been invited to four World Wheelchair 9-Ball championships, most recently this past December 2013 in South Africa. It's an invitation extended to the world's 16 best wheelchair players. He's medaled twice, taking the silver in 1999 and the bronze in 2003. But 40 years ago, after a life-changing car accident, Jones' future seemed bleak and he considered ending his life.

(CNN) -- When it seems there is no way out of a situation or you have problems you feel you can't solve, just don't quit.

After an auto accident in 1974 left me without the use of my legs, I did not want to continue living in this condition. I had decided to quit and end it all by putting a bullet through my head.

Thank God for bringing my sweet loving mother into my hospital room (where I was recovering from my accident). I can still so vividly see the hurt and pain on her face as she looked down at me. Suddenly I forgot about poor little me, and realized she needed comfort and assurance.

I said to her, "Mom, if you can make it, I will make it." I could immediately see her face relax and her eyes brighten. I knew she believed me.

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She was then, and still is, the inspiration I need to enjoy life to its fullest. I am so, so glad I decided not to end my life and miss all of the wonderful and beautiful things life has to offer.

It do not matter if you are physically challenged or able-bodied, we all have our ups and downs. That's life. Just remember when you are up, don't forget the ones that are down, and when you are down, don't stay down. I strongly believe that God, who loves all of us equally, will never put more on our shoulders than we can carry.

Even with my less-than-limited funds, I'm doing all that I possibly can to help keep the National Wheelchair Poolplayers Association afloat. I've been fortunate enough to be part of this worthwhile organization for many years.

Thanks to Bob Calderon from Las Vegas, the original founder of our organization, for his vision to get people in wheelchairs out of the house and competing with others in wheelchairs playing pool.

After hearing about this organization, I decided that it would be great to be among many in wheelchairs competing and sharing stories on the same level. So I flew out to Arizona to play in the National Championship.

I rolled into the pool room and observed the 60-plus people in wheelchairs practicing to compete for the best of best on wheels. I was amazed!

After finishing seventh in this my first tournament, I knew that I had potential -- and that I had a lot of work to do.

Calderon, the president of the organization, asked if I would be vice president, and without hesitation, I said yes. He and I have traveled the world playing pool and promoting our organization, putting in countless hours trying to get sponsorship for this worthwhile cause.

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