Disability news

Student surprises parents when she walks on graduation day for the first time in years

Melika Ghanaati

When Melika Ghanaati took to the stage unaided on graduation day earlier this month the crowd, including her parents, were left speechless.

It was the first time the 19-year-old had walked for over a decade following months of intensive physiotherapy.

Ghanaati was diagnosed with a number of health conditions when she was younger, including congenital myopathy, club foot, scoliosis and recurring kidney stones, the lack of mobility meant she was in a wheelchair throughout childhood.

But, determined to put one foot in front of the other, she persevered so she could give her fellow students at Northview Heights Secondary School in New York a shock when she graduated.

'I wanted to surprise everyone with the walk, but most importantly, I believed I owed it to myself,' Ghanaati told Mail Online.

A video capturing the moment shows her slowly getting out of a wheelchair before she walks to greet one of her teachers.

Ghanaati underwent spinal surgeries between the ages of 10 to 13, the treatment was intense, she briefly died in the ICU following a procedure.

'I lost a lot of blood flow and needed to have a blood transfusion,' she told the publication.

Doctors ‘banned’ Ghanaati from walking after surgery in 2016, but in 2020 she was given permission to walk again without using any assistance.

'At school I always had a walker, and after the surgeries I was banned from walking and to take a break if I need to stop,' she said. 

Ghanaati went to see a physiotherapist, telling them she wanted to walk onto the stage on graduation day.

'By July 2022, I was doing physio- my last year of high school was very chaotic, I was trying to fit learning to walk in with four different extracurricular clubs,' she explained.

But, it was tough, when she arrived home from school Ghanaati was ‘completely exhausted’ although through sheer determination she did her exercises every day which she compared to ‘a baby learning to walk’.

‘Graduation was the goal, I had to keep going,' she said. 

When she knew she could walk again, Ghanaati kept quiet to her parents, wanting it to be a huge surprise on graduation day, but she did tell those working on the event, just in case something went wrong.

'I think in the back of my teacher's minds, they were worried I was going to fall.' 

'I was asked if I needed my walker but I wanted to do it all on my own without anyone holding my hand,' said the determined student. 

A few days before graduation she started to have second thoughts and almost backed out of her plan.

'I was so close to changing my mind. The head of special education helped me out in case I fell, she was my plan B,' Ghanaati admitted.

But she went ahead and shocked everyone in the room, receiving a diploma, the Vision of the Future accolade and a school board award for academic and extracurricular…on her feet.

It took her a while to notice her mum, Marjan Simi [49] and dad, Masaud Ghanaati [56], were in the audience, which as she explains may have been a blessing.

'I didn't really process it at the time. If I had there and then, I would've started crying,' the student went on to say.

'It was a big success, I saw my dad wiping tears with his jacket sleeve.'

'This was such a special moment for me - my teachers and closest friends were worried about me, but I proved everyone wrong.' 

[ Malika Ghanaati is now a psychology major at Glendon Campus of York University. ]

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