Disabled student takes first steps in 10 years - on stage at her graduation

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A chronically ill student took her first steps in 10 years - to accept her awards for excellence at graduation.

Melika Ghanaati, now 19, hasn't been able to walk unaided since 2013 due to four debilitating medical conditions.

She was born with a severe form of scoliosis - a curved spine - as well as congenital myopathy, a disorder which has caused weakness in her muscles.

Growing up, she either used a walker or a wheelchair - and has needed various surgeries to correct her curved spine.

But after a year of intensive physiotherapy, Melika was able to walk up to her teacher unaided and receive her high school diploma, as well as two awards for excellence.

Melika, who is now a student at York University, Canada, said: “This was such a special moment for me - my teachers and closest friends were worried about me, but I proved everyone wrong.

“I wanted to surprise everyone with the walk, but most importantly, I believed I owed it to myself.”

Melika was born with a number of conditions - including scoliosis, severe club feet, congenital myopathy and recurring kidney stones.

But her scoliosis and club feet were the biggest hurdles preventing her from being able to walk.

Up until the age of 13, Melika had a number of surgeries in an attempt to get the curve and club feet corrected.

She even briefly died in ICU after surgery at the age of 12.

She said: “Between the ages of 10 to 13 I had three spinal surgeries.

“I even had a code blue - I died for a few seconds.

“I lost a lot of blood flow and needed to have a blood transfusion."

Doctors said after the final surgery in 2016 that she was “banned” from walking.

But in June 2020, she “finally” got the “A-Okay” to start learning to walk unaided.

It took Melika three years to get confident enough to visit a physiotherapist - and she realised her graduation would be the perfect time to take her first steps.

She said: “At school I always had a walker, and after the surgeries I was banned from walking until I was fully healed.

“I didn’t get the official A-Okay until June 2020 - but I was told my body knows better than me and to take a break if I need to stop.

“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.

“I’d come home completely exhausted and would need to do my best at the exercise homework I was given."

Melika describes her time at physio as “like a baby learning to walk” - her progress was gradual and she had to learn to take one step at a time.

She was given exercises like holding on to the wall and putting one foot in front of the other.

“Graduation was the goal I had to keep going,” she added.

Wanting to keep it a surprise, she didn’t tell her friends or parents that she was practicing for graduation.

But she had to let the graduation committee know - in case something went wrong.