CASCADE, Mich. (WZZM) -- With Thanksgiving two days away, many people are taking inventory on what they're thankful for.
One man, who has spent the last six weeks in West Michigan, is thankful for something many of us take for granted on a daily basis: the ability to walk.
In 2008, Estuardo Morales was shot in Guatemala after withdrawing money from a bank. The wound left him paralyzed from the chest down. For the last five years, he's learned to live with it and never had any physical therapy or rehabilitation.
But a friend brought him back to Grand Rapids, and in six short weeks, something amazing has happened.
"His first day of therapy, he couldn't sit up," said Aaron VanManen, who helped Mr. Morales come to the United States for therapy. "It's been an exciting six weeks."
VanManen became friends with Estuardo in Guatemala while Aaron was there starting an orphanage in 2009. "We worked on getting him a visa and lined him up with physical therapy to come here and give him an opportunity to do more than what he could do in a wheel chair," added VanManen.
Mr. Morales arrived in Grand Rapids on October 21 and then started physical therapy the next day. "He has received therapy every day," said Bindu Thamman, who works at and co-owns Cascade Physical Therapy. Thamman has been Mr. Morales' physical therapist since he arrived in West Michigan.
Just within the last month, Mr. Morales has gone from being confined to a wheelchair, to standing, and walking 150-feet with a walker, baffling his therapist who has two decades of experience working with people who are paralyzed.
"I've never seen anyone progress this fast and become this independent in a span of four weeks," said Thamman.
For Estuardo Morales, his personal mission was to walk again. "It really motivates me and I really feel that it's God's miracle for me to [walk again] and it helps me continue on and work hard," Morales said through his interpreter.
Mr. Morales is moving toward his goal faster than anybody could have anticipated while, at the same time, distancing himself from the crime that disabled him. "I plan to keep working hard," added Morales.
"Right now he's using a walker, but I think if he keeps up with the rehabilitation, he has the potential to be able to walk with crutches someday," said Bindu Thamman.
Estuardo Morales plans to return to Guatemala Friday, where he says he will continue daily rehabilitation on his own. He will return to West Michigan in March of next year to continue work with his physical therapist.