After Jaquie Goncher became engaged last year, she decided that she would do the impossible: She would walk down the aisle at her wedding.
Following an accident in 2008, doctors told Goncher the chances of her walking again were "slim." But on her wedding day, not only did she walk down the aisle, she also danced with her husband and stayed on her feet for four hours.
In 2008, Goncher visited a friend’s house to swim. After diving into the pool, she immediately knew something was wrong. As she floated face down in the pool she realized she couldn’t move.
At first, her friends thought she was joking and laughed, but they soon noticed something was wrong. They pulled her from the pool and called her mom. As her neck flopped around limply, Goncher blacked out. She had shattered her C5 vertebra and fractured her C2 and C3.
Even after surgery, her prognosis didn’t improve. Goncher was paralyzed from the chest down. When her mom asked the doctors if her daughter would walk again, the response wasn’t hopeful.
“The chances are too slim to even put a number on it,” the doctor said.
Goncher had feeling in her legs, but she couldn’t move them. While in the hospital, she managed to bend her right leg. Yet, she struggled to participate in physical therapy; her blood pressure remained too low and she kept fainting.
After physical therapy, her mobility increased, but she sometimes took shortcuts. Some days she felt too tired to do her makeup with her weak hand, so she did it quickly with her dominant hand. She could walk short distances, but it felt too exhausting to drag her left leg behind her. She just didn’t push herself.
When boyfriend Andy, 35, proposed to her in 2015, Goncher felt it was important to walk down the aisle and dance with him. She decided to teach herself how to walk. She joined a gym to build her strength — and the first day there, she doubled the length of time she walked or stood since her accident.
“I did it for 10 minutes and I thought that was amazing,” she said. “I was so excited and so blown away, too, because I hadn’t been in therapy for almost a year and a half.”
For two hours a day, six days a week, she’d work out by planking, lifting weights and walking to build her core and leg muscles.
“There were a lot of people that would come up to me in the gym and said it was motivating to see me there. It was cool to have that random support from strangers,” she said.
While Andy knew she planned on walking down the aisle and even helped her with walking lunges (which she says were “ugly”), few other guests knew.
On May 22, Goncher, in her wedding dress and floral headpiece, arrived at the edge of the aisle in her wheel chair — and then stood up. When she started walking, all eyes were on her. Though she kept her eyes glued to her feet, making sure she put one in front of the other.
When she looked at the wedding pictures, she felt overwhelmed seeing everyone crying.
“It was emotional,” she said. “It wasn’t that I walked down the aisle that it was so amazing for Andy and I, but it was that I was on my feet for four hours and that has never happened. And that blew both of us away.”
Since the wedding, Goncher still works out and tries walking more with her cane. But her ultimate goal remains bigger.
“I 100 percent believe that I will be running one day by the grace of God.”