FAIR OAKS (AP) — A suburban Sacramento teenager who was paralyzed from the chest down in a summer diving accident and vowed not to let it stop him from succeeding in his senior year of high school was named his school’s homecoming king on Saturday night.
Andy Wu, who turned 17 last month, was one of six boys vying for the honor at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks.
Wu fractured his spinal cord in late June when he dove off a rock into Folsom Lake and hit his head in the shallow lake bed. He remembers “the whole thing,” he told The Sacramento Bee: the dive, hitting his head, being unable to move, his girlfriend and a friend pulling him out of the water.
Before the accident that made him a quadriplegic, he was a sprinter on his school’s track team and like other boy’s his age was enjoying the freedom that comes with a driver’s license. He spent the summer first in the hospital, then in a rehabilitation center learning to make use of the limited function he has left in his arms.
“The hardest part was learning how to do things by yourself, and getting used to having to do it a different way,” Wu said. “You brush your teeth the same way for 16 years and then all of a sudden you have to find a way to do it a different way. It’s sort of rough.”
Yet Wu returned to school within weeks of the accident determined not to let a wheelchair slow him down. He spends four hours a day on physical therapy. He is co-president of his senior class, taking three advanced placement classes and in the process of applying to Stanford and University of California, Berkeley.
“I’m generally a positive guy who likes to keep on living life, but then there’s the question of will I ever get back to where I was,” he told The Bee. “And all the doctors can say is they really don’t know.”
Before the dance where he was named homecoming king, Wu invited his girlfriend, Natalie Caraway, to be his date by asking his friends to help him hoist a large poster that read, “Wheel you roll to homecoming with me?”