Northwest High School student plans to walk across graduation stage after spending months in a coma

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Nearly two years ago, Austin McClinton’s high school graduation seemed unlikely if not impossible.

The Northwest High School student suffered traumatic brain injuries and neck and spinal cord damage as a passenger in a July 2018 car crash when the driver ran off the road and hit multiple trees. 

Christy Dalton, McClinton’s mother, said the teenager spent more than a month in a coma.

“We have beat the odds in so many ways,” she said. “The doctors told me that he would never be able to walk, he wouldn’t talk, he wouldn’t be able to use any limbs, think on his own, remember anything, but here we go.”

McClinton had to relearn everything, spending months in the hospital and working to regain his skills in physical therapy.

On top of the physical challenges, he continued schoolwork from home. 

“We worked hard to catch up all those assignments, quizzes online. It’s been crazy, but he did it,” Dalton said. “That’s his motto, ‘can’t stop, won’t stop,’ and that’s what we’re doing. We’re not going to stop.”

He completed the necessary coursework, and will graduate from Northwest on June 12. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students will take part in a drive through graduation ceremony.

“Because of his journey, (it’s) kind of sad because I really did want him to to have that one shining moment,” Dalton said.

McClinton still plans to walk across the stage, but his classmates won’t be in the crowd to cheer him on.

“I’m going to get him to that stage. He’s going to take some steps to get that diploma,” Dalton said.

McClinton uses a walker to assist him, and his mother said he’s working hard to return to his usual activities like ATV riding.

“I’m very proud of him because I probably would have given up along time ago if I was in his situation,” Dalton said.

McClinton told FOX8 he hopes to attend Randolph Community College to further his education and plans to study welding.

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