By Shannon Lane @Shannonroselane

A MAN who tried to kill himself has found a new lease for life with his caregiving girlfriend after becoming paralysed from the waist down

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Videographer / director: Per Lind
Producer: Shannon Lane, Ruby Coote
Editor: Marcus Cooper

Kevin Ortiz, an Air Force veteran, originally from Virginia and now living in California, shot himself in the chest in 2012.

The 28-year-old told Barcroft TV: “What I remember was just the gun going off, it was so loud my ears were ringing.

“My head just kind of went down and that is when I saw a hole in my chest."

Kevin met Kassandra Garibay his long-term girlfriend prior to his suicide attempt at high school.

Kassandra said: "I met Kevin in school, I had seen him first and I eventually sent him a friend request on Myspace and that is how pretty much we started talking and dating.

“When I met Kevin in high school he never seemed to have any time of struggle, or he never seemed depressed, ever sad, anything like that - far from it.

“He was funny, and he was always smiling no matter what. He was class-clown but he was very smart and that’s what really attracted me to Kevin."

Kevin added: “The first time I met Kassandra, the first thing I noticed was how short she was.

“She was cute and she was very smart, that was like the main thing that attracted me to her cause of how smart she was and I knew that she was going to get somewhere in life.

“And I knew if I was with her then I would get somewhere in life as well."

The couple broke up in 2010, three years before Kevin’s suicide attempt.

Kevin said: “We broke up in 2010. She moved to California I stayed in Georgia.”

The day of Kevin’s suicide attempt still remains vivid in his mind.

He explained: “The moment I attempted suicide it is actually kind of vivid. I was driving, I had just left the storage unit. I was driving and I came to a stop and the gun actually was actually about to fall.

“For some reason it came to my head that if I pull the trigger nothing is going to happen and I pulled the trigger and something happened.

"I lost my breath and my head just dropped and when it dropped I saw a hole in my chest right here there was a hole in my uniform.

"I really didn’t have any pain in my chest and after that I just kind of like passed out and when I woke back up it was a like I'd pass out again. 

“When I woke back up I was on a ground in pretty much in the middle of the highway, and this lady is telling me 'what is your name? what is going on?' because what she thought I’d had a seizure.

“And the ambulance got there and I had passed out again. The next thing you know you wake up and I was on the operating table so at this time I just got a bright light to my face, I can’t even see anything.

“And then I wake up like two weeks later. The moment I found I was paralysed I’d just woke up out of the coma. My mom was sitting right across to me and she pretty much told me paralysed."

Kassandra found out about Kevin’s suicide attempt through social media.

She said: "I had found out online through Facebook that he got into an accident, so I was able to get in touch with his sister and at that moment I literally I broke down.”

After the suicide attempt, Kevin and Kassandra got back together - and Kassandra is now his full-time caregiver.

Kevin said: “Kassandra pretty much helps me with my everyday life, so like waking up, taking a shower, getting in the car, she is the one that folds up my wheel chair and puts it in the trunk.

“So that is what she helps me out with and I would say that she helps me out with my mental health as well because we have a very open relationship."

Kassandra added: "I have been his caregiver for almost four years and I feel like I have adapted to it for the most part and kind of know when he is going to need something, and I already have it out like his toothbrush and his toothpaste, his clothes, anything I know that he won’t be able to reach.

“I have just learnt to be a girlfriend at the same time so to me it is hard to really distinguish what caregiving is and what girlfriend is just because I feel like that is also a way of showing love and care at the same time."

The couple have now set up their own YouTube channel, The Life Of K&K, where they discuss life in an interabled relationship.

Kassandra said: "So for the YouTube channel, The Life Of K&K, we do different videos, we do vlogs, we do challenges, pranks and lately we have been doing everyday life things. 

"Kevin shows how he exercises, how he gets around In the car and he shows different ways to do things for someone who might also be in a same situation, in a wheelchair."

And Kevin also wants to remove the stigma surrounding male depression.

He said: “When it comes to health I think men don’t like to be weak.

"I think there is a stigma for men because men are supposed to be macho, very dominant and I feel like mental health is considered a weakness and no men wants to look weak and that is pretty much it.

“Male depression is very taboo, I think depression period is taboo, nobody wants to talk about it, nobody wants to admit that they probably need to see somebody when I think in actuality I think that everybody needs to see somebody at some point in time."

The couple are part of the Veterans Affairs program, which allows Kassandra to be Kevin’s full-time caregiver.

Kevin thanks Kassandra for everything she has done to help him

He said: “Kassandra has been the key part in getting me back to world, getting me back to be me.

“She’s the one who was bringing me out in the public when I didn’t want to go out in the public And she was making me go all these places.

“My current mental health situation is pretty good, I don’t take medications and I don’t go to see a doctor and I kind of just cope with it myself."

Kassandra added: "I think our relationship now is a little bit different but better, we communicate a lot more, we are very open and I think that is what makes our relationship close and very intimate so after the accident, everything, I think our relationship is a 100 percent times better.”