Paralyzed bride fulfills dream of walking down the aisle on her wedding day
Some brides stress over finding the perfect centerpiece. This bride just wanted to walk down the aisle.
Seven years ago, Stevie Beale, then 17, was in a horrific car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Her back was broken, her spinal cord severed. The Toledo, Ohio, teen lost all feeling in her legs. Her best friend died in the crash.
In the first months following the crash, she worried that her life was over.
"I thought I was doomed to my parents' house, to never have a boyfriend or never get married," she tells Today. "I thought I was going to sit at home and rot away."
With the help of intensive physical therapy, Beale began to dream again.
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And on Saturday, Beale, now 24, kept a promise she made to herself during rehab: she walked down the aisle on her wedding day.
"Seeing everything come together at that moment and seeing all the hard work pay off...Her in the dress and how beautiful she was...Just kind of overwhelming...," Beale’s husband Jared VanAusdale, 32, tells ABC. "[I] tried to keep it together as much as possible."
Beale credits the turning point in her recovery with her parents discovery of a therapy centre in Detroit, Mich., that had a special program for spinal cord recovery work. It made her "feel like an athlete again," she says.
Through the program, she started connecting with other accident victims, including Brianna Mullinger, a teen who lost her left leg in a train accident. The girls became fast friends. It was through Mullinger that Beale met her future husband.
"It was one of those situations where you feel like you’ve known the person forever," VanAusdale says of meeting Beale for the first time. "It was effortless."
"It didn't take long with her and I being together for me to figure out this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with," VanAusdale tells ABC.
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“I always tell him that he gave me the ability to enjoy life again and makes me continue to want to work hard," Beale tells Today.
When VanAusdale proposed last summer, Beale's determination to walk down the aisle on her wedding day grew even more.
"The wedding itself is exactly what I wanted just how I am getting down to the end of the aisle isn't what I always pictured," Beale said a week before the wedding. "It's definitely going to happen. How pretty it's going to be, I don't know."
She was right. Thanks to three-times-a-week therapy sessions and her unwavering stubborness, it happened.
The bride walked down the aisle with just the help of a walker.
There wasn't a dry eye in the church.
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"It was a day of pride for how hard she’s worked to get down the aisle and to even emotionally prepare herself for the rest of her life," Beale’s mother, Sheryl, tells Today. "I felt nothing but pride and joy."
After the ceremony, VanAusdale carried his bride out of the church. She spent the rest of the day in her chair.
"I'm so proud of her. Seeing her walk down the aisle is probably the most important part. I lived it. It was amazing. She's worked so hard for it," Mullinger tells ABC.
The newlyweds have planned a honeymoon in Hawaii.
"I never really saw her being in a chair as a challenge just because if she was not in a chair, we would have challenges in other aspects. Every person, every marriage, every couple goes through challenges," says VanAusdale.
"I'm content with where I am right now. I know this is my reality for a long time, maybe not necessarily for the rest of my life. I'm OK," Beale adds.