MEDINA, Ohio — It was Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. It was supposed to be a simple sledding trip for a Medina County teen. Instead, it forever changed the life of now 18-year-old Natalie Wilson.
"It all happened so fast to me," she said.
Wilson was sledding down the Cleveland Metroparks' Hinckley Hill when suddenly she collided with a tree.
"I remember we were going down one more time," Wilson recalled. "I remember going down the hill and I don't remember hitting the tree. I just remember going down the hill and then like just laying there realizing I couldn't move."
Her father, Jim, was at home when the accident happened. He recalled receiving her phone call.
"She immediately, once I answered the phone, immediately was just screaming over and over, 'I can't feel my legs, I can't feel my legs,' and I could just hear the fear and terror in the voice," he said.
Wilson spent three weeks following the accident in the ICU. She suffered six broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a broken back and a spinal cord injury, paralyzing her from the chest down.
"Most of the summer I was going to physical therapy at Metro and they just work on arm strengthening and how to get around and tips for how to do certain things," she said.
But Wilson hasn't been alone on this road to recovery. Friends and the community have stepped up to help the Wilsons make the drastic changes necessary to make sure Natalie could live as close to a normal life as possible.
"To do this without that type of community is just, I don't know how you could even get through it," Jim said.
The 18-year-old high school senior is working to push forward, undergoing three hours of rehab treatment a day. Plus she's preparing to take her cosmetology license test in the next few weeks, getting closer to dreams of working in a salon.
"I'm wanting to work in a salon full time, and just maybe start one of my own one day."
But to get there, she's also going to need help getting a driver's license and learning how to get behind the wheel again in a new way. So the Wilson family is raising money for a modified vehicle through Help Hope Live. It's a national medical nonprofit that helps people for people who are affected by a catastrophic injury or illness.
"I really want her to have as normal a life as possible and to to be able to to see that with an injury like this, yes, you can still do the things that that you wanted to do before the paralysis set in," Jim said.
The online fundraiser will also help Wilson get some of the most modern therapies and treatments, often not covered by insurance.
If you'd like to help Wilson and her family with those out-of-pocket medical expenses, click here for her Help Hope Live fundraiser.