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A schoolgirl who was left paralyzed after a stroke aged just 11 has wowed medics by learning to walk again – after her parents made a pact not to tell her that doctors had said it would be impossible.
Natalie Bentos-Pereira, 16, from North Carolina, was just 11 when she woke up one Friday in 2017 and felt something wasn’t quite right.
Despite being in pain, Natalie went to school but was later rushed to the hospital by her parents when she couldn’t walk.
After several tests and examinations it was later found Natalie had suffered a spinal stroke.
Natalie Bentos-Pereira, 16, from North Carolina, was left paralyzed by a stroke aged 11, but has learned to walk again, despite doctors telling her parents it would be impossible
Natalie Bentos-Pereira suffered a spinal stroke aged just 11 (pictured) prompting medics to say she would never walk again
Natalie’s determined parents, Margaret and Gerado,(pictured) decided they would not tell their daughter that she would never walk again
After the stroke (pictured), Natalie had to undergo gruelling physiotherapy in a bid to relearn to walk
The doctors told Natalie’s family she would never walk again but her determined parents, Margaret and Gerado, decided against telling her the prognosis.
And with the belief that she would always be able to walk again, with a lot of hard work and perseverance, Natalie took her first steps in the year after her illness.
Mum Margaret said: ‘We both decided that we didn’t want her to give up on herself. If we had told her that would have been very deflating, and we wanted her to work at her recovery, and to believe in herself instead of the doctors.’
‘A whole team of doctors had looked her over and we eventually got our diagnosis. They informed us that Natalie would never walk again. I remember my husband telling the doctors, “She’ll prove you wrong”.
Natalie, at age 11, was wrapped in a foil blanket as she is transported from her home, following her stroke
Memories: Natalie beamed surrounded by her cuddly toys while in hospital after her stroke aged 11
Natalie went through years rehabilitation, her parents explained she needed a lot of physical therapy to get strong again
After months of physical therapy Natalie was slowly able to get back to enjoying activities such as kayaking
Natalie’s parents got her to work with a swimming therapist in the water and she was like her ‘old self’
Her parents said she always loved swimming and she ‘could not wait to see what she could do in the water’
She used exercise machines during her rehabilitation to strengthen the muscles in her legs and to build up her strength
‘We did keep the doctors diagnosis from Natalie. Well, we left the part out about her never being able to walk again. We did not want her to give up hope.
‘We told her that it was gonna take a lot of therapy and hard work from her to get strong again. The process was going to take time, this was not going to happen overnight.
‘We did a lot of therapy over the years. The first year we went to Kennedy Kriger for one month of inpatient therapy. They worked with her everyday.
‘By the time we left they had her walking with a walker, we were thrilled with the outcome!
Natalie posed in her wheelchair next to her mum Margaret and her older sister during a visit to Washington, D.C.
Exciting moment: Natalie beamed in hospital after she finally got the casts removed from her legs
Being in a wheelchair didn’t stop Natalie from enjoying life and she continued with fun activities
In the the first year Natalie went to Kennedy Kriger for one month of inpatient therapy and they worked with her everyday
‘We continued to go there for two more years after, for two weeks of outpatient therapy.
‘They did wonderful things with her! We also put her with a swimming therapist. In the water Natalie was her old self. She always loved swimming and she could not wait to see what she could do in the water.
‘Till this day she can swim unbelievably well, without using her legs.’
By the time Natalie left the Kennedy Kriger Institute they had her walking with a walker, which her parents were thrilled about
Well done: Two years after her stroke Natalie was out of her wheelchair and using a walker to get around
Amazing news! Fast forward five years which Natalie is now able to walk and enjoying her teenage years
Fast forward five years which Natalie is now able to walk and enjoying her teenage years.
‘Natalie is now 16 years almost 17, learning to drive and is going into the 11th grade.
‘When she finishes High School she hopes to attend college in South Carolina to become a neonatal nurse.
‘This past year Natalie started to play adaptive Tennis and would like to continue in College. She is excited for all to come!’
After years of rehabilitation Natalie got more confident walking after she worked hard to build her strength
What is a spinal stroke?
A spinal stroke is a disruption in the blood supply to the spinal cord.
A disruption in the blood supply to the spine can block nerve impulses travelling along the spinal cord.
Spinal strokes are most common in the anterior spinal artery.
However, most spinal strokes are caused by blood clots in the blood supply.
Spinal strokes are a rare condition and are less common than strokes that affect the brain.
Spinal strokes only account for 1.25% of all strokes.
Main symptoms of a spinal stroke are muscle weakness in the legs, change in sensation (unusual feelings) in the lower half of the body and problems with the bowel and bladder.