Nearly six years ago, California resident Janne Kouri tragically became paralyzed from the neck down in a freak swimming accident. Doctors gave him no hope for recovery. But now, Kouri is miraculously standing on his own without a walker. In fact, he was able to gave his wife, who married him after the accident, the wedding dance that they never had.

In August of 2006, Kouri was playing beach volleyball when he dove into the ocean to cool off, hitting his head on a sandbar and instantly paralyzing himself. At first, Kouri’s prognosis was grim, but he learned of a cutting-edge treatment developed by a doctor at a rehab center in Kentucky that offered hope.

Called “loco-motor training,” the therapy uses repetitive motion to teach the spinal cord how to control functions like walking. Thanks to the intensive treatment, Kouri was able to take his first steps with the assistance of a walker in 2009.

According to Kouri, he learned how to walk again through sheer tenacity and force of will. “You hear it all the time, but if you put your mind to it, you can make it happen. But you know it’s true that if you stay focused and work every single day, you really can do whatever you set your mind to,” he said.

In February of this year, Kouri stood unassisted for the first time and even slow danced with wife Susan, who married him a year-and-a-half after the terrible accident.

From now on, Kouri said, things will only get better. “It went from wiggling my toe to gaining more function in my legs and [being] able to then walk on a walker, and to now being able to stand independently for a short period of time,” he said. “From there, the sky’s the limit, so we’ll be walking one day soon.”

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