Some Fairfax County teenagers are learning a tough lesson this summer: that life can sometimes throw unexpected and unimaginable challenges your way.
This after a friend and classmate was paralyzed last month on vacation in Hawaii.
Nick Balenger's friends and classmates from Lake Braddock High School's Class of 2013 are also teaching a lesson in love and encouragement.
"We want him to know we're all here for him," says classmate Hannah Wojszynski. "We're all are praying for him and thinking about him."
They were gathering outside Medstar's National Rehabilitation Hospital in the District, waiting for Nick to arrive. When his ambulance pulled up after the relatively short ride from Dulles Airport, his friends surrounded it.
Nick had flown in from Maui where he broke his neck on a beach.
"Nicholas, if he's not sleeping, he's moving," says his aunt, Tamara Balenger. "He's the consummate athlete. And he was doing flips in the wave."
But he landed on his head - dislocating two of the vertebrae in his neck.
"You know, he was born there [Hawaii] 17 years ago," says Nick's father, Steve. "And we had planned to go to three different islands, and we got there and our first full day there is when the accident occurred. Our first visit to the beach. And he spent his birthday in ICU in the same hospital that he was born in."
Nick's mom, Sylvie, works for the Four Seasons resort chain and was based in Maui at the time Nick was born.
"We had great news yesterday at 5 o'clock," Sylvie tells us. "He actually moved his knee. So that's really positive because we hadn't seen any movement chest down since the accident happened."
His mother says Nick, a pitcher for Lake Braddock's 2012 state championship baseball team, is trying to keep a positive attitude.
"He's always checking his phone," she explains. "One of the first things he asked after the accident was 'Where's my phone?' Because he needed it to make sure that all the text messages were there from his friends and stuff. Just the support and the prayers too really help, so that daily checking of the phone was really inspirational for him. He's doing really well considering."
Considering the tough road ahead.
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