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Skydiving Accident Teen Talks About Fall, Returning To School

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jennifer Lindgren
Jennifer joined CBS 11 News in September 2013. For her, the move ...
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JOSHUA (CBS 11 NEWS)Less than two months after a terrifying skydiving mishap, a North Texas teenager is walking and ready to go back to school.

Makenzie Wethington, 16, went skydiving with her father in Oklahoma on January 25.  The Wethington’s say her parachute didn’t correctly open during the solo jump, and she fell 3500 feet, and hit the ground hard.

Makenzie broke several bones, suffered a brain injury and internal bleeding.  Doctors were able to stabilize her in Oklahoma, and she then returned to DFW.  Doctors at Baylor University Medical Center began treating her back at home in Texas.

She’s spent the last eight weeks in outpatient therapy, both physical and occupational, speech therapy for cognitive issues, and home school.

Just this week, the Wethington’s say, doctors told her body was almost healed.

“It was the power of prayer. Hard work, dedication and perseverance,” Makenzie said. She can now carry her one-year-old niece in her arms, and walk without assistance.

“I think I’m 95-percent recovered. Physically, I’m great, but mentally I still have memory problems, and my brain is not back to the way it used to be,” Makenzie said.

The teenager will spend the next couple of weeks finishing up therapy.  She plans to return to Joshua High School –at first on a part-time basis—at the end of the month.

Classmates have supported her since the beginning, fundraising for her recovery by selling t-shirts and baked goods.

“When I first saw her lying in the hospital bed, I thought it would be month before we got to get up and start doing normal things,” said Makenzie’s mother, Holly Wethington.

Makenzie has promised not to try skydiving again, but she is looking forward to the day when she can play sports, and drive a car again.

Her mother says she’s reminding Makenzie to take it slow. “Anything she [accomplished] one day, she tried to double it the next day. She’s very determined to get back to where she was.”

Makenzie says even if she’s feeling like her old self again, she thinks her life won’t be the same. “I don’t think so. [This experience] has made me want to strive harder to do everything better for myself.”

The accident has also helped Makenzie focus her career ambitions: to become a surgeon specializing in trauma. The teenager says she’ll be able to relate to people going through traumatic experiences.

“It took a lot of hard work for me to get here, so it makes me feel good to hear I’m an inspiration. Because no matter what someone is going through, hard work can get them through, too.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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