BOERNE, Texas - A Boerne-area teen stunned the crowd at his high school graduation when he walked across the stage to receive his diploma.
Champion High School graduate Mason Smith came down with an illness in Jan. 2017. However, what he thought was just an average stuffy nose, cold or fever turned into frightening complications.
Smith's mother, Sherri, said he woke up after about a week of being sick with a strange feeling in his back. He realized he was paralyzed and was officially diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis.
According to the CDC, there were 120 cases of the disease in 2014 and only 149 in 2016.
He was hospitalized for 41 days and discharged on his 17th birthday. His mother also said Smith goes to nine hours of therapy every week and has attended school full time for about the last year.
After coming down with the illness, he couldn't sit up on his own initially.
Now, he has worked hard to recover enough to walk across the stage. He is also looking forward to attending Texas A&M University in the fall.
"It's not fun to wallow in your own self-pity. I wanted to go to A&M, and I wanted to see my friends again," Mason said.
Sherri Smith said the Boerne community has rallied around their family. Because Mason missed nine weeks of school, he hustled to take 19 tests in two weeks in order to complete his junior year. His family and friends even helped him take a planned trip to Disney World with the school band a few weeks after landing in the hospital.
"It's as much a story about Mason as it is about the Boerne community coming together," she said.
Mason also graduated Cum Laude and received a standing ovation.
"In his college essay, he actually wrote a line and said, 'I rolled back into school and back into my life…' I am so proud of him every day," Sherri said.