BETHANY, Okla. - An Oklahoma teenager reached his goal of walking out of a rehabilitation unit three months after being hit by a car.
Dennis Dominguez, 16, said he was driving home in February during an ice storm when another car crashed into his.
"So, I got out to check out the lady because she was the one who got injured the most, and I told her, 'Well… I’m going to go back to my vehicle. It’s pretty cold' and that’s when I got hit by another vehicle," Dominguez said. "I was on the floor for a good 10 minutes. I couldn’t move."
The Emerson High School senior was rushed to OU Medical Center and has been recovering at the Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital. Neurodevelopmental pediatrician Dr. Steven Couch supervised his medical care.
"He broke his neck at a medium high level, so he was initially unable to move his hands or legs at all and he has made a substantial recovery," Couch said. "At first, he could not move, so part of what we did was take advantage of recovery as so he improved then he was also very weak so he needed a lot of strengthening. He needed a lot of balance training. He needed a lot of practice."
Dominguez went through physical therapy up to six times a week.
"The exercise I found difficult was to get my arm exercises, to get them back strong and healthy and that kind of stuff," he said. "I’d say that was the most difficult."
Greeted by cheers from rehabilitation staff and his family, Dominguez walked out of the Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital on Wednesday after being discharged.
[VIDEO] WAY TO GO, DENNIS! This 16-year-old has reached his goal of walking out of the hospital months after he was hit by a car during an ice storm. Doctors have been working hard to repair his spinal cord injury @kfor pic.twitter.com/OZsaPEBzYK
— Lili Zheng (@LiliNBC5) May 16, 2018
"It’s been pretty rough but, over the time, it’s gotten better," he said, looking back over the past few months. "The exercise I found difficult was to get my arm exercises to get them back strong and healthy and that kind of stuff. I’d say that was the most difficult for me."
He said he's appreciative of all of staff at the center, including Amber Samuel. Samuel is a special education teacher who works for the Children Center, which has a contract with Bethany Public Schools.
"He is a true miracle, and I’m actually tearing up because, when I first started working with him… he wasn’t able to move his arms, his legs. I had to do everything for him on his iPad," Samuel said. "At first, he did not want to do school. He kind of dreaded it when I came into the room, but we formed a relationship through this day that helped him succeed in school."
Dominguez had fulfilled the necessary credits to graduate on May 24. He said his decision to walk at graduation will depend on the progress he continues to make in the coming weeks.
Moving forward, Couch said Dominguez still has to go physical therapy two or three times a week, plus do exercises at home.