Chris Norton finished his college education a whole semester early because he needed to accomplish one important mission. The new grad was paralyzed four years ago and at graduation Sunday, he wanted to walk to his diploma.
He worked out for six hours every day to make sure he was strong enough, he told NBC News. But that is only the beginning of his long route to recovery.
In 2010, during his freshman year at Luther College – located in Iowa – the grad broke part of his spine during a football game. Doctors gave him only 3 percent of chance that he would walk again. He was paralyzed from the neck down.
But that was unacceptable to Norton even though his situation was very grave. His father, Terry, told KTRE that at “his first therapy session, (he) was nodding his head yes and no.”
The new grad thankfully had access to excellent medical care and therapy – plus a dogged determination and staunch faith. After four years of hard work, he proved the doctors wrong.
“With hard work and … faith, family and friends, anything really is possible. You just have to keep believing in yourself.”
Of course, not everyone who is paralyzed will recover, a sad fact he recognizes and is trying to rectify by establishing the SCI CAN Foundation, which raises money for people who don’t have access to the same equipment he did – like a $25,000 wheelchair exercise bike and $15,000 rehab system.
But on Sunday, he had his moment, the chance to show everyone that despite adversity, he wouldn’t be defeated.
“My graduation walk was what I considered my game day or Olympic event. My full focus was to take the best steps I could possibly take and not worry about the audience or anything else.”
That approach worked wonders. The audience watched the paralyzed grad get his diploma, which his father called an “incredible moment,” in which “the crowd … erupted, and they went on for the entire time he was up there. It was … emotional. Everybody was on their feet.”
But wait, Chris’ miraculous walk to his diploma wasn’t the only milestone reached this weekend. He also took the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend on Saturday.
Evidently, that was even more stressful than getting a diploma; he told KTRE that he couldn’t even eat.
His surprised girlfriend happily said yes and gushed, “it was definitely the best weekend I’ve ever had.” As for Chris, he sees the end of one road and the beginning of another.
“So many people, including myself, fear failure, it’s human. But if you do everything in your power to accomplish your dreams, at the end of the day, you can be proud and happy with how far you’ve come. Good things will come.”
[Photo Courtesy YouTube Screengrab]