Lynchburg, VA- Rustburg High School's graduation this weekend is a milestone for so many students making their way out into the world. But for one young woman and her family, it's an achievement they never thought they'd be able to see.
After a devastating car accident two years ago, then 17-year-old Ashton Powell's mother was told her daughter would never fully recover. But Shawna Powell never gave up hope on her daughter, even through much heartbreak.
It took months of rehab and over a dozen surgeries, but Ashton is exceeding any and all expectations. And, come Saturday, will walk the stage to get her high school diploma. That's one of the reasons Ashton is all smiles these days. She has no memory of the crash that crushed her skull and nearly took her life.
"She remained in a coma for about 36 days," said Shawna Powell.
Doctors were preparing Powell for the worst.
"'You're going to have to face it. She may not come out of this. You know, you may need to go home and make your arrangements.' No. No, I'm not going home to make my arrangements," said Powell.
She refused to believe her daughter's life was over. And little by little, Ashton made improvements. But months after the wreck, she was still unable to walk or talk. Until one day, the day Powell says she realized her daughter would pull through.
Ashton called out for her mother, uttering the first words Powell heard from her daughter since her wreck.
Several months later Ashton was home from the hospital, continuing her therapy and rehab sessions, and starting on school work to complete her degree.
"After I sat down and started looking over my stuff every night and working on it, it came to me. Government and English, out of the way," said Ashton.
It's that kind of attitude that keeps Ashton and her family going through setbacks, surgeries and whatever else may come their way.
"She would say it many times, 'Yes, this happened to me. But you know what, God saved me.' And she said, 'I like who I used to be. But I love who I am now,'" said Powell.
"I made it. Anybody else can make it," said Ashton.
Ashton says she's got her sights set on college, and wants to be a speech therapist so she can help others the way she was helped in her recovery process.