A Florida teen carries a remarkable story about how her road to recovery after sustaining a brain injury from a traumatic car accident led her to reach her goal of walking the stage at her high school graduation.
18-year-old Khalia Carter recalled to Good Morning America the evening of April 18 when the car accident occurred. Carter said she was driving home after spending the day with her best friend running errands, playing golf, and getting matching tattoos. A drunk driver on a motorcycle with a blood-alcohol level three times over the limit rear-ended the teen, causing her vehicle to fly down the road uncontrollably and end up in a ditch.
“I felt a big crash, and my car was spinning, and I couldn’t control it,” Carter said. “I couldn’t control the wheel. I couldn’t press the gas or the brake. Nothing was working, After that, I got out of the car, and I just started screaming once it stopped.”
A good samaritan at the scene called Carter’s mother, Shawnda Cook, informing her that her daughter was in a car accident. Despite her daughter being only five minutes from home, it took the mother about 30 minutes before she could see her daughter due to emergency response personnel rushing to the scene.
Carter sustained a brain injury, a mobility disorder, speech impairment, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other damages. But she didn’t let that stop her from reaching one goal that kept her motivated during recovery: walking the stage at her high school graduation.
From occupational and physical to speech therapy, Carter endured a mixture of intensive treatments to recover completely, which wasn’t easy. On Cook’s Facebook, videos show Carter’s recovery progress.
“Some days [are] very hard, and some days, I just get emotional, and I’m not even an emotional person,” Carter said. “This journey has been a lot, and dealing with a brain injury is probably one of the worst things you can go through [because] your brain is really sensitive.”
On her way to getting better, the graduating senior thought it would be a great idea to surprise her class with her ability to walk again at her graduation.
“After I was getting stronger every day, I decided, maybe it’d be surprising if I shocked everybody and walked across the stage and why not? So I pushed every day as hard as I can and gave 110% every day at therapy, to try to be able to walk across the stage.”
On May 21, Carter did what she wanted, walking the stage with the rest of her Fort Myers High School graduating class o 2022 at Hertz Arena.
“This was such a huge milestone,” Cook said. “Khalia had so many odds against her. It’s hard [for her] to be in a big crowded environment and so for her to take the initiative to go and be around such a large crowd was huge for her. So to see her take the initiative to do it and walk across that stage herself? It was amazing.”
Carter plans to attend Georgia Southern University in the fall to study journalism or education.
“I don’t want to change my mind because I know that it’s always been a dream, so I’m going to try to stick to it and try to make it happen,” she said.
Carter did create a YouTube video of her telling her story and showing herself at physical therapy.