ESPN reporter Victoria Arlen, a former Paralympic swimmer, had a very interesting story to tell. Who would have thought that in her energetic adventurous body, she had suffered from a coma in the past?
She was just 11 years old when she experienced flu-like symptoms which her family assumed can be easily treated with a few visits to the doctor; however, she ended in a coma.
Turns out her flu-like symptoms progressed into fainting spells and pneumonia which led her body fell to paralysis. Apparently, she was already suffering from an inflammation in her central nervous system.
She then lost her ability to move, eat, and converse. Her once bubbly, energetic personality became quiet.
She spent over 4 years in the coma. Medical practitioners started to lose hope for Victoria’s recovery, they started telling her family that there was a high chance she would never recover.
It took three years for the doctors to diagnose her situation with two equally rare conditions: Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis which is an autoimmune disorder that caused swelling in her brain and spinal cord.
With God’s loving grace, Victoria woke up!
What’s even more interesting with her condition, Victoria said that she was aware of what is happening around her while she was stuck in a coma. Though her body is paralyzed from the waist down, waking up from a four-year coma was indeed a medical miracle.
“Slowly over the next year, I began coming back to life; raw sounds became words, became sentences. A twitch of my index finger became the wave of my hand. The ability to swallow pudding eventually led to me mowing on a steak. I learned the name Justin Bieber, held my first cell phone and learned what it meant to ‘poke’ someone on Facebook,” she said in an interview with People TV Watch.
However, despite waking up, the strength of her legs didn’t return. Devastated with her condition she realized that she will never swim again. However, her brothers made sure she will recover again; so in 2010 her brothers threw her into the pool. To their surprise, she was free from the chair and she was still good in water. As days went by, she gained confidence again.
In 2012, Arlen was already 17 and made it through USA Paralympic swim team and competed at the London Games wherein she won three silver medals and a gold in the 100-meter freestyle and set a world record in the 100-meter free.
Project Walk is a paralysis recovery center based in San Diego who helped her to push her goals in walking using the Dardzinski Method, an activity-based therapy.
“Then, on Nov. 11, 2015, I took a small step, I was strapped into a harness above a treadmill and two trainers worked to move my legs. It had been six years since I ‘woke up’ and my legs had shown no life. Most doctors say if there is no improvement after two years, there will be no improvement. Still, I showed up every day, for up to six hours a day, and worked,” she said to People TV Watch.
Five months later, she let go of her crutches and can slowly walk on her own.
Arlen’s recovery has been very challenging yet we’re very happy with what she has achieved so far. May she serve as an inspiration to everyone who’s going through rough roads, that there’s always a rainbow after the rain…