This ‘Dancing With The Stars’ Contestant Was In A Vegetative State For 4 Years

Twitter/Victoria Arlen

Paralympic gold medalist Victoria Arlen is set to be one of the contestants on season 25 of “Dancing with the Stars,” and boy has she earned her place on that stage. Arlen has an incredible backstory, and you’re going to be rooting for her to take home the DWTS trophy once once you hear it.

Arlen regained full use of her body, including her legs, just a year and a half ago, after recovering from a vegetative state.

She’s now a reporter for ESPN, but in 2016 she wrote about her experience for the publication. Her own words are the only ones that could describe what she’s been through.

“When I was 11, I got sick. My back and side ached, so doctors took out my appendix. Then my legs began giving out. My foot dragged. Within two weeks, I lost all feeling and function in my legs. Next, my hands stopped working. I couldn’t control my arms, couldn’t swallow properly or find the right words when I wanted to speak. It was as if someone was slowly shutting down the switches on the circuit board that controlled my body and brain. I was slowly slipping away from my family,” she wrote.

She continued, “Two years later, I woke up inside a body that could not move. I was locked in. I could hear the conversations going on around me, but I had no way of alerting anyone that I was aware they were there.”

It was three years before she was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, autoimmune disorders cause swelling in the brain and spinal cord.

“Then, in December 2009, I made eye contact with my mom. Slowly over the next year, I began coming back to life. Raw sounds became words, became sentences. A twitch of my index finger became the wave of my hand. The ability to swallow pudding eventually led to me mowing on a steak. I learned the name Justin Bieber, held my first cell phone and learned what it meant to “poke” someone on Facebook. But despite daily progress, one thing never returned: my legs,” she wrote.

Victoria Arlen photo
Getty Images | Matt Winkelmeyer

After regaining use of everything but her legs, she went after her dream of swimming, something she had loved before getting sick. In 2012 she competed in the Paralympic games and took home three silver medals and one gold medal.

All the while, she didn’t give up on her goal of walking.

Victoria Arlen photo
Getty Images | Clive Rose

“Despite agonizing frustration, I put in everything I had every day, spending thousands of hours working and fighting for one flicker of a sign that my legs were still alive. For the longest time, I didn’t see even a twitch of movement below my level of injury,” she wrote.

Then, in 2015, there was a glimpse of hope as she noticed movement in her foot while training one day. In 2016, she took her first steps and hasn’t looked back since!

Now, she’s adjusting to her new body and her newfound fame.

“Each day, I become more comfortable with my new reality. I thought taking those steps on March 3 would be my finish line. But really, they were only the beginning.”

Despite not having feeling in her legs, she’s still able to manipulate them, and soon—you’ll see her use them to dance across the stage!

Now, she’s going from re-learning to walk in 2016 to taking the “DWTS” stage alongside Val Chmerkovskiy.

She tweeted to say how excited she is to be apart of the show, writing, “I am beyond grateful and excited to be paired with this incredible human on Dancing With The Stars Season 25 @iamValC.”

The show hasn’t premiered yet, but she’s already gaining so much support.

“I just read about you for the first time. As a fellow TM survivor (’04 and ’06), I will tell everyone I know to watch/vote for you,” one fan wrote on Twitter.

“Good luck #DWTS rooting for you both so much,” wrote another.

She’s joining the likes of Frankie Muniz, HGTV’s Drew Scott, Nick Lachey and others, so this is bound to be a must-watch season.

“DWTS” airs on Sept. 18. Be sure to tune in and cheer Arlen on! Because seriously—is there anything this woman can’t do?!

Health, Life

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About the Author
Augusta Statz
I have a B.F.A. in Writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design. I’m an avid writer with a genuine sense of curiosity. I feel the best way to absorb the world around you is through fashion, art and food, so that’s what I spend most of my time writing about.

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