Teen with cerebral palsy surprises family and friends by walking at graduation

Teen pulls off uplifting graduation surprise

BEACHWOOD - Elizabeth Brassell was born 3 months early at just one pound, fourteen ounces. 

“She’s been a fighter since the day she was born”.

Those are the words of Elizabeth’s mom Nancy, who has had a front row seat to this incredible journey.

Newborn pictures of a tiny peanut reveal the fragility of those first hours, days and weeks. But that was 19 years ago.  Elizabeth has never stopped pushing forward.

Cerebral palsy means she works hard with Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation therapists for every single movement she makes. 

Frustrating at times. But always grateful.

“We didn’t even think I would be here because I was born so early,” Elizabeth revealed.

“She has had numerous surgeries. Surgery on her heart, on her brain, her back and on her hips,” mom Nancy said.

Down but never out, Elizabeth set a goal as a sophomore to walk at high school graduation.

“I went to bed that night and had a dream. And I thought I could do this,” said Elizabeth.

It was a 2 year “long range” plan rooted in persistence.

To walk across the stage, Elizabeth knew she would have to make it in about a minute.

“There were days I had 6 minute laps. And I’m like, not gonna work,” she said.

A favorite Bon Jovi song was her go to for inspiration. “Raise Your Hands” became the anthem of her quest.  “The day of graduation and I’m like, I can do this! And I had to give myself the pep talk,” Elizabeth said.

Fifty feet of triumph.

“As soon as my feet hit the ground, I knew. I can do this. I did a quick scan and all I could hear were cheers from a mile back”, Elizabeth said.

 What used to take 12 minutes took 1 minute 15 seconds to cross that stage.  What made the moment even more special is that Elizabeth kept her plans a secret.

“None of my family knew I was doing this. It was a complete surprise. Complete.”

“My uncle was literally crying. A grown man crying.”

Maybe because Grandpa Clark Brassell had passed away a year and a half prior to Elizabeth’s graduation. They were very close.

“I had to do this for my Grandpa.”

“Do you think he’s like your angel? Maybe helping push you along?” Dawn Kendrick asked.

“That’s exactly what he was,” Elizabeth replied. “I’m glad I didn’t quit.”

This once tiny little girl who is proving persistence pays off. Her Clinic therapists know her to be in a word: “powerful."

“No matter what it is she’s not going to give up,” explained her therapist Jen McFeely.

“It took patience. But I would say all the hours I put into this, all the minutes I put into this were worth it,” Elizabeth said.

Inspiration personified for the rest of us.

“Don’t’ take walking for granted. Because there are people who can’t,” Elizabeth added.

Her journey continues. Elizabeth plans on attending Lakeland College for business management and healthcare. So there’s no telling the number of people still to be inspired by her example.

Against all the odds and through 50 feet of triumph and beyond. 

A story to be filed right away under the good stuff.
    


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