Sparta senior paralyzed in crash beats the odds, walks at graduation

Posted at 9:36 PM, Jun 02, 2017

SPARTA, Mich. -- There was a special moment at Sparta High School's graduation Thursday night, as one teen overcame the odds to get her diploma.

Natalie Wright was in a bad car accident when she was 5 years old that left her paralyzed and wheelchair-bound.  With the help of some of her friends, she was able to walk across the stage Thursday and get her diploma.

It was a very emotional moment, one that multiple doctors told Natalie would never happen.

Natalie and her father were both involved in the when she was 5.  He had a seizure while driving and their vehicle crashed into a guardrail.

"The seat belt was pressed against my spine and it snapped and gave me whiplash at my C7 vertebrae," Wright said.

It left her in a wheelchair, but she was determined to walk across the stage at graduation.

"The physician sat me down, he's like 'So you understand you have a high injury, right?'" Wright recalls. "I was like 'Yep,' he's like 'there's no way that we're going to get you in these braces.  I was like 'Yeah? I'm going to get in them. Try me.'"

At Sparta's high school graduation Thursday, she was determined to walk across the stage. It's something she's wanted to do since the 8th grade.

"I was not going to go across in my chair," Wright said. "I didn't want to get up out of my chair in front of everybody, I wanted this to be my one normal little piece of high school."

"You could not sit there and not be in awe that that even happened," said Natalie's mom Marie Paternoster. "I just lost it. I couldn't believe that I was watching her do that. Just everything she'd worked so hard for. The culmination of everything, all her goals she set for herself to take place on the stage."

Natalie has a scholarship to play wheelchair basketball at the University of Illinois in the fall.  She's also going to be pre-med, hoping to become a neurologist some day.