She beat the odds!
An 18-year-old Florida teen survived traumatic injuries from a car accident to walk at her high school graduation, Good Morning America reports.
Khalia Carter told reporters that everything was pretty normal the evening of April 18. She had just spent the day with her best friend playing golf and getting matching tattoos and was on her way home when she found herself in a real-life nightmare.
“I felt a big crash and my car was spinning and I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t control the wheel. I couldn’t press the gas or the brake. Nothing was working. After that, I got out the car and I just started screaming once it stopped,” Khalia recalled.
Her mother, Shawnda Cook, said she received a call from a stranger who was at the scene, urging her to get there as soon as possible. While Khalia was just five minutes away from home, because of EMS and emergency responders also heading to the scene, it took Cook roughly 30 minutes before she was actually able to get there and lay eyes on her daughter. Turns out, Khalia was rear-ended by a drunk driver on a motorcycle whose blood alcohol levels were three times more than the legal limit.
The impact of the hit sent Khalia’s car cascading down the road at about 90 miles an hour before she crashed into a ditch. The teen was rushed to the hospital and suffered a traumatic brain injury, a mobility disorder, speech impairment, and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the accident.
“Some days [are] very hard and some days, I just get emotional and I'm not even an emotional person. This journey has been a lot and dealing with a brain injury is probably one of the worst things you can go through [because] your brain is really sensitive,” said Khalia.
Despite it all, she was able to focus on getting better with the support of her family, staying positive, and setting a goal from the very beginning to get better in time to walk the stage at her upcoming high school graduation.
“I was determined. Nobody was going to stop me from doing that. I knew, as soon as it happened, I told my mom in the hospital that I’m still going to go to graduation. After I was getting stronger every day, I decided, maybe it’d be surprising if I shocked everybody and walked across the stage and why not? So I pushed every day as hard as I can and gave 110% every day at therapy, to try to be able to walk across the stage,” said Khalia.
Khalia with parents Reginald and Shawnda Cook. Photo Courtesy of Shawnda Cook/GMA
The teen went from not being able to walk, to using a wheelchair, and then a walker, to just a little over four weeks after the crash, joining the rest of the Fort Myers High School Class of 2022 to walk across the stage at her high school graduation.
“This was such a huge milestone. Khalia had so many odds against her. It’s hard [for her] to be in a big crowded environment and so for her to take the initiative to go and be around such a large crowd was huge for her. So to see her take the initiative to do it and walk across that stage by herself? It was amazing,” said Cook.
Khalia is still in therapy and plans to keep progressing, hoping to get well enough to still attend Georgia Southern University in the fall. The former captain of the varsity cheer squad said her plan is to pursue a degree in either journalism or education.
“I don’t want to change my mind because I know that it’s always been a dream so I’m going to try to stick to it and try to make it happen,” she explained.
Congratulations, Khalia! As you've already proved, you can do anything you put your mind to.
Photo Courtesy of Shawnda Cook/GMA