Imagine walking into the doctor’s office for a routine procedure — one you’ve received twice before without complication — expecting to walk out a couple hours later feeling better only to be transferred to a hospital, permanently paralyzed below the abdomen. That’s what happened to Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann, who was just a freshman in college when she became paralyzed in January 2008 following a simple lumbar epidural injection to treat post-shingles back pain. What Weggemann did from that point forward, however is what defines her — she got back in the pool. “Once I finally took that leap of faith and got in the water, within four or five strokes, I fell in love with the water all over again,” she tells Bustle.
On April 8, 2008, not quite 11 weeks after losing function in her lower body, Weggemann returned to the pool where she had competed in high school. “Initially going into that first day I was terrified. I didn’t even bring my suit with me to the pool because I wasn’t convinced that I was ready to get back in,” Weggemann tells Bustle. “Although, my luck had it that one of my former high school teammates and friends growing up swam for the Minnesota Gophers at the time and had just finished practice herself, and she had an extra suit on her.”