A short walk on a long journey

“That’s what can happen when you don’t stop, when you don’t quit believing."

A long journey with an incredible ending

Tomorrow will be special

FRIDAY, MAY 12

Andee Poulos uses a cane to get where she’s going. It’s one of many reminders of where she’s been.

But today, she's thinking about tomorrow.

It will be graduation for seniors at Holy Innocents.

“I’ve been dreaming of this day ever since I was little,” she says.

Tomorrow will be extra special because of what has filled so many of Andee's yesterdays.

“They put us in the room…the room they tell you your kid’s dead”

Andee Poulos had lived 14 years seemingly at full health. But she was born with a malformation of blood vessels in her brain. When it ruptured, Andee ended up in a coma.

“She’s got the tube down her throat; there’s blood and gauze all over the place,” said her father, John Poulos.  “The smells, the beeps, the bright lights and quite frankly, I couldn’t handle it.”

John and Lyn Poulos were told their daughter might not walk, talk, eat, or drink again.

“I just remember thinking, ‘I can’t go to sleep. I can’t leave her side,’” Lyn Poulos said.  “It was denial, and I was not going to believe it and I chose to try and find a different answer.”

Her “Away” period

Andee has little memory of the 20 months that followed. She couldn’t talk. She couldn’t do much. Recovery was far too slow.

They call it her “away” period.

“You’re trying so hard to help her, and she throws everything, and you’re back to Square One, and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh … how are we going to live like this for the next 50 years,’” John Poulos said. “All of a sudden, we were at the end of the rope -- she started talking. That quick. Right where we’re sitting.”

Once Andee started talking, she started remembering. That led to Andee doing more.

Within a year she could swing a bat.

Within two years, she could take steps and go back to school.

“It was a really big change for me and just really hard to deal with at the beginning,” Andee said.

The hardest part?

“Probably not being with my friends and the people I was with for almost 10 years at school,” she said. “And seeing them graduate when I was a sophomore, that was really hard.”

Andee pushed on. Those around her stepped up. Her family turned community donations into a non-profit called Andee’s Army, focused on helping young adults face similar journeys.
 
Andee’s classmates gave her new memories, including a promposal.

“One day we came home from a baseball game, one of the players came over with his mom and brought the poster and the teddy bear, and it was really cool,” she said.

But for graduation, Andee planned to create the memory.

“I was planning on walking without my cane across the stage, and I think that’ll be really good for everyone to see,” she said. “That’s what can happen when you don’t stop, when you don’t quit believing."

Tomorrow becomes today …

SATURDAY, MAY 13

It’s graduation day. Andee strides to her seat with her classmates and her cane.
 
The seniors have earned this moment.

“You will be wonderful adults, and you are ready to move onto the next chapter of your lives, so congratulations,” the teacher says.

And when the time comes for Andee’s moment…

RAW VIDEO: Andee Poulos receives diploma


 She walks across the stage. No cane. Everyone standing.

“She’s never been mad. I can’t recall her ever saying, ‘Why me?’” said John Poulos.

Embraces follow. From family, faculty, and classmates old and new. They have all seen Andee’s journey and her triumph. 

“I’m really resilient, and I don’t give up, and even though I may have known that before, deep down, I really know that now,” she says.

Next year, Andee will attend college -- by herself -- at the University of South Carolina.

A long journey with an incredible ending

MORE: Andee's Army

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