Skip to main content

Family And Doctors Think 11-Year-Old Girl Is Brain Dead - 4 Years Later She Wakes Up And Speaks

Photo Credit: Wabs Stories

Photo Credit: Wabs Stories

On March 3, 2016, after doctors told her that it was impossible, paralympic swimmer Victoria Arlen took her first steps without assistance. It was no easy fete.

Recounting her journey to her first steps, Arlen revealed that she’d gotten sick at age 11. Because her side and back ached, doctors removed her appendix. However, this wasn’t the end of the nightmare.

Her legs began giving out, and in two weeks, she’d lost all feeling in her legs. Her hands followed suit, and then she had problems swallowing and speaking properly. Two years later, everything went dark.

Arlen was trapped in a body she couldn’t move. She was locked in, with no way of alerting anyone that she was aware of what was going on around her.

Photo Credit: Wabs Stories

Photo Credit: Wabs Stories

Three years later, she was diagnosed with two rare conditions: Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, autoimmune disorders causing swelling in her brain and spinal cord. Had she been correctly diagnosed in 2006, she could have been treated without complication.

Doctors told Arlen that she would be a vegetable for the rest of her life, and she heard them. But her parents believed she would make it.

Her parents set up a hospital room in their New Hampshire home, and her brothers constantly talked to her about what was going on outside her room.

In 2009, she was able to make eye contact with her mother, and over the next year, things began registering. Raw sounds became sentences, her twitching index finger became the wave of her hand, she went from swallowing pudding to chomping on steak.

Photo Credit: Wabs Stories

Photo Credit: Wabs Stories

However, her legs did not show any progress.

"You need to get used to being in a wheelchair," specialists told her.

Arlen’s idea of possible had changed at this point, and her parents were willing to do anything to help her walk again.

A water baby, Arlen was convinced she would never swim again. However, her brothers had a different idea. In 2010, they threw her into the pool. This was her turning point. She was still good at swimming, and she found her freedom and confidence in the water.

She made the 2012 USA Paralympic team when she was 17 and competed at the London Games – snagging three silver medals and a gold in the 100-meter freestyle. Arlen also set a world record in the 100-meter free.

Photo Credit: Wabs Stories

Photo Credit: Wabs Stories

However, her dream of getting out of the wheelchair was still going strong. She joined Project Walk, a paralysis recovery center based in San Diego. Arlen and her mother temporarily moved to San Diego where she underwent the Dardzinski Method, an activity-based therapy.

Not wanting to live far from her family, her parents opened Project Walk Boston in 2015.

Arlen spent hours fighting for a flicker of movement in her legs, enduring agonizing frustration when she didn’t even see a twitch of movement in her legs.

She finally took a small step on November 11, 2015. A trainer had noticed a flicker of movement within her right leg, and this was the spark of hope she needed.

Arlen kept training up to six hours each day, and slowly, she began regaining movement in her legs. She began sitting less, walking with forearm crutches, and wearing her leg braces more frequently.

Photo Credit: Wabs Stories

Photo Credit: Wabs Stories

On March 3, 2016, she ditched the crutches and walked unassisted.

For Arlen, walking is still challenging, and her impairment is significant. She wears braces and flows a training program two to three hours each day.

“I thought taking those steps on March 3 would be my finish line,” Arlen described in an ESPN article. “But really, they were only the beginning.”

Sources: ESPN

Popular Video