18-year-old Natalia Torres ended up in the hospital fighting for her life after an upper respiratory infection in January.
"I mean she almost died 3 times!" says Lori Thomas, Natalia’s mom.
She was on life support, paralyzed with a mysterious illness called ADEM. It happens when the body is trying to fight off something like a cold, and attacks the brain as well
"She couldn't eat, talk or move. She was totally dependent," says Thomas.
Now after 4 months fighting at Metro Health Medical Center, Natalia is home in Olmsted Falls.
"It's nothing short of a miracle," says Thomas.
But Natalia says, “It’s just hard work."
Maybe it was both that got Natalia out of the hospital in time to graduate Berea-Midpark High School that same day.
She even made her senior prom.
Determined and driven...
"Yes...I had to be...you know I had goals,” says Torres.
Natalia's awesome mom and sister are anchors of “Team Nini” who have had their Nini's back since day one. That’s when the hospital became their home for 4 months.
"My heart is full. I feel like I won the lottery," says Thomas.
There's still work to be done in therapy to retrain muscles and speech.
So Natalia still practices patience every single day. She chooses gratitude even before she gets the things back she used to take for granted.
"Her goal is to walk by August," says Thomas.
But back when Natalia's journey began in January, little Eva Harris of Rocky River died from ADEM, not long after Natalia was admitted to the hospital for it.
It was gut wrenching news then for Natalia’s mom who is also a nurse. Now she’s pushing for more research and awareness to beat ADEM before it takes another child down.
"We all get colds and flu immunization but WHAT IS IT in these kids that is triggering that response?" asks Thomas.
“I don’t want to see anyone else go through this,” says Torres.
It’s that kind of empathy that makes Natalia’s mom so proud.
"I have my girl back and anticipate her making a full recovery and she is going to go on to do great things and inspire others," says Thomas.
If you want to meet Natalia yourself, there will be a fundraiser on Saturday June 10 at Grindstone Tap House in Berea from 6-9 pm.