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Hillsborough Co. student earns diploma less than a year after losing ability to walk and talk

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — It was an unforgettable moment for one Hillsborough County high school senior Monday.

Hailey Highsmith graduated from Lennard High School. The accomplishment almost didn’t happen after she suffered a medical emergency nearly a year ago.

Because of her determination, a little help from her physical therapists and people cheering her on, Highsmith turned the nearly impossible into possible, walking across the stage to get her high school diploma.

“It’s a huge moment in any kid’s life and any parent’s life, but especially after what Hailey has experienced in the past year,” her mom Robin Highsmith said.

The Lennard High School senior had a spontaneous brain bleed last June. She lost her ability to walk and talk.

Her recovery started slow and her family decided graduation wasn’t in the plans this May.

That all changed a few months ago.

“In February or March, when her her voice turned back on and she was able to start communicating again we understood that she was able to read and write and that her cognitive abilities, her comprehension and her speaking abilities were going to be fine, was when we kind of decided that we would be able to let her graduate,” Highsmith said.

Hailey’s story is a true example of overcoming adversity. She has been working with her physical therapists at John’s Hopkins Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

“After this there’s nothing that she won’t be able to take on and I think everything kind of looks small when you compare it to something like what she has gone through in the last year,” Highsmith said.

Despite what it looks like now, Hailey already has plans for her future. She was on the path to finishing her associates degree while being duly enrolled. The hope is her language and abilities are farther along in the fall or spring so she can finish her associates degree.

Then next fall, join her friends at UCF.

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