Colorado teen overcomes the odds to graduate with friends after tragic car crash

Photo courtesy: Craig Hospital/GroundFloor Media
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EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - Graduation may have been the last thing on Jake Heinen's mind the night of March 12. That night he was driving with a friend in the car when he suffered a seizure. His friend grabbed the wheel, tried to steer the vehicle but the vehicle slammed into a tree.

Jake's friend wasn't seriously hurt. Jake however, was left with a spinal cord injury. He was already behind on graduation credits at Discovery Canyon High School, and now he was forced to focus on healing.

Jake was handling his rehabilitation at Craig Hospital in Englewood. He was there for a month. That didn't stop him from marking May 16 on his calendar, graduation. Thanks to Laura Magnuson, M.Ed., the hospital’s full-time teacher, Jake completed four online classes and finals in the time he was there, giving him the credits he needed to graduate with his class.

"Laura brought something out in him that wasn’t there before – she was very understanding, she really heard him.” says his mom, Jennifer, who says he is more outgoing now and has a new passion for life. Her statement was shared from Craig Hospital. “This experience has changed him in a good way – he wants to go back to Craig and be a mentor to new patients.”

Jake will walk again eventually, as his injury was not complete, but for now he uses a wheelchair.

He was able to graduate Thursday night with Magnuson in attendance.