Nearly every high school student looks forward to graduation. It’s a celebration of their hard work and a chance to start anew.
But sometimes life puts unexpected obstacles in the way.
Jose Ortega Morena Jr. of Bellevue was hospitalized for acute flaccid paralysis, a neurological condition characterized by weakness and reduced muscle tone that’s a life-changing diagnosis for the high school soccer player.
The Gross Catholic High School senior was worried his condition may jeopardize walking the stage at graduation.
However, he used the momentous event as a goal to push him through recovery.
Morena spent two-and-a-half months working in physical, occupational and speech therapy at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals’ pediatric unit.
Utilizing specialized technology like the functional electrical stimulation bicycle and a robotic gait trainer, he regained strength in his legs and enhanced his overall coordination.
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His Madonna care team organized a special graduation ceremony for him after seeing his impressive progress and knowing his goal of walking across the stage at graduation.
In coordination with faculty at Gross Catholic, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital ordered his cap and gown and had Principal Paulette Neuhalfen present him with his accolades.
On Monday, May 22, his family and care team gathered to celebrate his graduation with cake, congratulatory messages and words of encouragement.
“It was good to see all the people that care for me there,” Morena said. “It was special and made me feel really good.”