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Determined to dance with boyfriend at prom, teen fights waist-down paralysis

HOUSTON – Strapped together by buckles and braces, the two teens are now inseparable. Their simple sway of affection, before today, appeared impossible.

"It's something that I did not ever think I'd see her do again," Katie's mother, Karin Vacek, said.

It was a tragic accident that happened two months ago. Katie and her boyfriend Kernie were walking in the woods when they decided to climb a tree.

"I always like to go the highest and show off and be the daredevil," Katie said.

The two had just snapped a picture together in that tree when something happened.

"I freaked out. I tried to grab the branch, but instead I ended up falling 15-20 feet," Katie said.

Kernie saw it all.

"It was the most horrifying thing I had ever seen," Kernie said.

Katie was life-flighted, but the fall claimed part of her body, and left her paralyzed below the waist.

"I was upset, but I'm not going to show it. I'm going to stay strong," Katie said.

Staying strong, Katie was on her feet within a month and onto her next goal -- defying the odds to dance with Kernie at senior prom.

The specialized harness was custom created by her physical therapists at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

"She wanted it to be as natural as possible," physical therapist Kristi Radfar said.

"I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm happy that I could've impacted her life," physical therapist intern Ahsya Devocht-Patel said.

Her boyfriend is now her backbone -- not just for prom, but for life.

"As horrible as it is, I think it's brought us closer," Kernie said.

"I honestly don't know what I'd do without him. It would be definitely a lot harder," Katie said.

Both Katie and Kernie will be hitting the dance floor May 13 at the Needville High School prom.