Vanessa Cantu considers herself an incredibly optimistic person. When she was a freshman in high school she was involved in a serious car accident. She says her seat belt didn’t work and without its support her spine broke and she suffered severe, internal injuries. She was kept in an induced coma for weeks. When she woke up she wanted to know why she couldn’t feel her legs.
“My family didn’t want to tell me anything,” said Cantu. “Nobody wanted to tell me anything. Finally I asked the doctor what’s wrong and he says you’re paralyzed and you’re never going to walk again.”
From that point on Cantu’s life became fixated on finding a way out of her wheelchair and back on her feet. She went to countless physical therapy sessions and endured a number of surgeries. She found herself able to use crutches but that didn’t mean the trials and tribulations stopped.
“I’ll never forget the first time I fell at school and I thought it was just the end of the world,” said Cantu. “I just sat on the floor and I cried. At that point it’s like you can either stay down or get up. Brush it off. Move forward. Learn how to deal with it. That’s just going to be a part of the process.”
Cantu started seeing Mary Tanner, a Physical Therapist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. She and Tanner focused on things like balance and strengthening her lower body.
“We were just basically trying to get her ankles and feet to work better with the walking stages and her ultimate goal was to really kind of get out of the scooter,” said Tanner.
Tanner says that in less than two years with hard work and determination Cantu made her way out of the scooter.
“She is so motivated and it’s rare that we have that kind of transition especially when it’s an older spinal cord injury,” said Tanner.
Cantu hopes to encourage other accident victims facing her same struggles and pass on some of her positivity.
“Find something positive out of it because it’s a life altering event,” said Cantu. “Use it to help other people. Use it to find new hobbies, new goals and you’ll be surprised at yourself and what you’re able to do. Don’t hold back.”
Watch the video in HD above produced by our News Without The Blues team – the only news team in Texas that only reports on positive news! The video was reported by Journalist Katherine Lane and shot by Videographer Chris Ghanbari.