Stricken by 'surfer's myelothapy,' paralyzed teen learns to walk again

Feb. 21, 2012 at 12:13 PM ET

A freak injury stole Kristen Adlhoch's ability to walk, but the 18-year-old decided she wouldn't let it take away her hope.

Fifteen months after she collapsed on the beach, paralyzed from the waist down, Adlhoch walked across the TODAY studio, aided by crutches and an electronic device called the NESS L300 that stimulates her muscles, allowing her to walk.

Adlhoch was injured after she tried surfing for the first time during a family vacation to Hawaii. Her legs started feeling strange, so she headed to shore -- and made it about 50 yards before she collapsed. The diagnosis: Surfer's Myelopathy, a rare condition in which repeated hyperextension of the back causes a loss of blood flow to the spinal cord.

Adlhoch returned home from vacation in a wheelchair, and was told by doctors she may never walk again. But thanks to physical therapy, the electronic stimulator -- and her seemingly endless supply of positive attitude -- Adlhoch is now taking steps.

"I think from the very beginning I knew there was a reason that it happened, and I knew that something good could come out of it, if I let it," Adlhoch told TODAY's David Gregory. "If I allowed it to be a negative thing it would be, but if I allowed myself to grow from it, it would be a positive thing."