COVINGTON -- Michael Doherty’s days start out in a classroom, shift to social settings and then physical activities. Not much different than they were a year ago for the 18-year-old.
But a closer look shows how much things have changed in the last year.
On Nov. 11, 2016, Doherty, then a member of the St. Paul's High School football team, made a tackle that left him motionless on the field. He had emergency surgery to repair a broken vertebrae and spent months at a special rehabilitation facility in Atlanta, learning how to live as independently as possible from a wheelchair.
Doherty doesn't look back on that night often, but when he does, he knows he's come a long way.
"It's crazy how it's been a year," he said, "It's almost scary that it's been that long."
"Michael has been so blessed by the community and all the support and love and his friends," said Lisa Galatoire, Michael's mom. "We would not be where we are without the love, the support and the community."
"The community is still there supporting me, and my friends do everything they can to help me. So that's also good," Doherty said.
Many of those supporters say Doherty's optimism and outlook are the reason.
"He's always smiling," Galatoire said. "He's the happiest person. Being in his situation, he makes the best of it."
While Michael's positive attitude hasn't changed in a year, his progress certainly has.
Doherty spends two hours, three days a week at Touro's Neuro Rehabilitation Center in New Orleans. He has perfected tasks he struggled with eight months ago when Eyewitness News visited him in Atlanta. He's also taking on first-time physical and occupational therapy challenges with fervor.
Doherty says sensation is returning to his back, core and legs, making the struggle seem worthwhile.
"I've seen other patients who are actually past a year that have not made as much progress, so I'm thankful that I'm this far," he said. "Gonna keep going."
There are still setbacks like frequent muscle spasms and fatigue, but Doherty's therapists laud him for his determination, drive and troubleshooting skills. They’re more confident every day that they will see Doherty standing again on his own.
"It can take 10 years, it can take a year, so you never know. So keep going," Doherty said.
Just as life does.
Doherty is set to attend LSU following graduation in May. Before Baton Rouge, he'll head back to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for a full summer of therapy. His family is also looking into alternative treatments like stem cell therapy, but they'll need continued financial help from the community to make that happen.
"I just want to thank them as much as I can for all that they've done to support me,” Doherty said. “They're still there after a year and hopefully they'll still be there for the rest of the way.”
Doherty remains a part of the school's football team, the center of his group of friends, the focus of his family and an inspiration to supporters and strangers alike. So, as much as Doherty's days have changed, when it comes to what matters most it seems they've also stayed just the same.
If you'd like to help Michael and his family through their journey, head to: https://www.gofundme.com/mighty-michael-doherty
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