Sometimes in the course of life, the unthinkable happens and changes everything as it was ever known. But when the going gets tough, some people keep going — proving that something as simple as a very short walk can prove the indomitable nature of the human spirit.
For 27-year-old woman Gina Giaffoglione from McClelland, Iowa, her dream of walking down the aisle at her wedding seemed like a very far off possibility after a car accident paralyzed her from the waist down six years ago. The accident was so severe, doctor feared Giaffoglione would never walk again.
"My legs feel like when your foot wakes up from being asleep," she said in an interview with KETV. "It feels like that 24/7."
But the former athlete never gave up on being physically active, nor did she cast aside her vision of the wedding moment she'd always wanted. Even though she now uses a wheelchair, Giaffoglione wanted to stand in her own wedding dress and relish each and every step down the aisle with her father. Although on paper the odds seemed slim, Giaffoglione never gave up hope.
Holding fast to her desire, Giaffoglione embarked on a journey that took a year and a half, working closely with rehabilitation specialists and spending countless hours training with her dad for a walk to the altar. Only her close family and her fiancé knew about her ambitions leading up to the big day.
"Whichever way we have to do it, it's been her dream. Obviously, it's a dad's dream to have the honor of walking his daughter down the aisle," Gary Giaffoglione said of his youngest and only female child. "I told her, whether we talk down that aisle or roll down that aisle, we're going to do this."
And when the wedding bells rang, she stunned everyone at the wedding. Arriving in a wheelchair, Giaffoglione stood before her guests, took her father's arm and made the graceful stroll down the aisle she'd always wanted — moving everyone to tears in the process.
"When you can't feel anything and you're doing something that you used to do, that you take for granted — because I did and everybody does ... but when you're back up and doing it and especially having dad on my arm, it's a floating you can't even explain," Giaffoglione said. "It's not even about the walking. Your emotions are floating. Everything just seems to feel so good at her moment."
Outfitted with custom brace designed to fit under her gown, Giaffoglione was able to stand up straight as she walked with a very proud father of the bride down the aisle in style.
Looking back on her journey, Giaffoglione said has absolutely no regrets. While the past few years have been challenging, the newly-married Giaffoglione said she hopes her story may be able to inspire others who have similar struggles — or offer an alternative perspective for those who feel crushed beneath the weight of life's diverse challenges.
"I might be having a bad day, but I'm having a day. This walk down the aisle may not be what I always envisioned it would be, but we're having a walk down the aisle and it's happening," she said, "There's no way anyone can be upset about that."