“Never give up” is a mantra that is not alien to the world.
These days, it has turned to some sort of publicity stunt where people use it as an edge to stand out among the crowd. In truth, only a handful actually live by this “never give up” attitude. One of them is Natalie of Rock Hill, South Carolina.
From being paralyzed to then walking again, Natalie proved that one can achieve the impossible when you trust in yourself and never give up on your goal.
Natalie was an active 11 years old child who loved to be outdoors and had the most contagious laugh. Just over five years ago, her life was completely thrown off course by a medical emergency that threatened to ruin her life forever.
It all began on the 13th January 2017 when then 11-year-old Natalie came down for breakfast and complained of having back pain. Her parents assumed she had slept awkwardly and dismissed her concern as they believed the discomfort would go away in a few days. Alas, they were wrong!
The pain haunted Natalie while she was in school and later only got worse. It was to such an extent that she collapsed while waiting for the school bus.
“By the end of it, my leg started to go numb. I honestly had no clue what was going on. My parents were, of course, super worried,” Natalie, now 16, told The Epoch Times.
Seeing their daughter in such excruciating pain, Margaret, 42, a teaching assistant, and her husband, Gerardo, 40, who works for Spectrum Communications, immediately took her to the emergency room, hoping the doctors had the answer to why their happy little girl was crying in pain.
Natalie had the best team of doctors, yet none of them could identify the exact problem.
“They couldn’t explain the cause of why this was happening,” Margaret said. “That night felt so long for us. They did test after test after being airlifted to a nearby children’s hospital.”
While her parents were extremely worried, Natalie was so brave throughout the entire process; but what happened next was so cruel for an 11-year-old. Natalie woke up the next day being paralyzed from the upper chest down T4/5 incomplete. This condition coupled with the spinal tap test result led the doctors to conclude that Natalie had suffered from a spinal stroke.
“They told us she wouldn’t walk again,” Margaret said. “My husband and I were in a complete fog. We were just going with the motions. Living this new life was a complete shock to us. How did this happen to our healthy 11-year-old?”
Even the top doctors failed to find the main cause, which to this day remains a mystery. Natalie’s new life however was a straightforward one. She suddenly became like a 6-month-old all over again as she needed the sort of care that a newborn usually requires.
Since Natalie was so young and naive, she didn’t have the capacity to fully understand the tragic situation that had just befallen her. Margaret and Gerardo opted not to traumatize their daughter and hid the doctor’s assessment from her.
“We didn’t want her to know that the doctors said she wouldn’t walk again. We didn’t want her to give up on herself,” she said. “My husband always told the doctors, ‘My daughter will prove you wrong.’ They must have thought we were nuts.”
Their optimistic approach, as well as Natalie’s, eventually paid off. With her determination and practice, Natalie proved the doctors wrong by standing on her own two feet and walking once more, but it was no easy journey. She underwent a lot of changes with her body over the years. Like everyone, she had good days and bad days; but her family was there all the way supporting her through thick and thin.
After becoming impatient and doing rehab for a month at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, Natalie relearned to walk with the assistance of a walker. She has been building her endurance day by day and knows that one day, she will walk without the help of the walker.
“I am currently working on taking more steps unassisted,” Natalie said. “It does take a lot of concentration to do that. But my core has gotten much stronger.”
Natalie, who wants to be a pediatric nurse, is now a sophomore at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She admitted her injury has completely changed her outlook on life, but it also made her stronger and instilled the ‘anything is possible’ mentality in her. Speaking of her personal journey, Natalie couldn’t be more grateful to her parents for being her backbone throughout this experience.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but the doctors told my parents I would not walk again. My parents didn’t believe that and had faith in me,” she said. “I definitely had challenging days throughout the process, like feeling unmotivated, but was always lifted up by my family.”
“I would not have made the progress I have today if it wasn’t for them. So my advice is, fight for yourself and don’t give up.”
As for Margaret and Gerardo, they realized there is a vital lesson in all of this.
“Doctors are not God. They are human just like all of us,” Margaret said. “They make mistakes, and they cannot tell what the future holds. Don’t ever give up on yourself or your child.”
When belief is fortified with determination, miracles follow, as was the case with Natalie.