GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On the day before his little sister's graduation, Cameron Tacey reunited with the people who changed his life and spurred his sister's career path.
"The fact that she got to come back here to Mary Free Bed — full circle — blows my mind," Tacey said on Thursday while visiting the Grand Rapids rehabilitation hospital. "I think she's going to do great things."
Tacey, who is from Bay City, was in an accident 15 years ago that nearly took his life. With an incomplete spinal cord, he could not talk or move.
"I was in an induced coma for like two weeks," Tacey recalled.
Doctors were not sure if he'd survive let alone if he'd ever walk again. In the weeks to come, Tacey continued to gain stability.
"Then one day they said Mary Free Bed has a bed open and we are moving you tomorrow," said Sharon, Tacey's mother.
"[Mary Free Bed] literally breathed life back into us, literally. Because we were so nervous," she said.
Tacey could barely move his toe and had limited mobility in his arms when he arrived at Mary Free Bed. Within three months of daily rehabilitation, he was able to walk out of the hospital with nothing more than a cane to rely on.
"To go from passing out from sitting up to walking out on my own was a pretty amazing experience," Tacey said.
Tacey had no idea at the time that his ability to walk out of the hospital that day would shape the course of his sister's life, too.
"From 8 years old on, you know, high school, college, undergrad to now grad school — that has been the driving focus," Ashton said.
"I got to see Cameron's progress and I was like 'I want to do that,'" she said.
On Friday, Ashton will graduate from Saginaw Valley with her masters in occupational therapy. She has spent the last few months placed at Mary Free Bed, learning from the very people who helped inspire her career path in the first place.
"Now, I can help people do the same thing," Ashton said.
On Thursday, Tacey's family returned to the hospital to say thank you to Tacey's therapists as they moved Ashton out of Grand Rapids.
"I am very proud of her for it, it's very exciting and she's gonna kill it," Tacey said.
Tacey works as an audio producer in Los Angeles now. He walks with a limp and does not have feeling in some parts of the right side of his body.
"I think a lot of people know that I had an accident and see my limp and see the things I still go through, but they don't know that day one was not being able to move," Tacey said. "To [walk] in three months is quite amazing."
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