Lehigh Valley

Despite terrible injury, NCC graduate never gave up

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - It's the walk college graduates wait for…the one that leads to the next big step.

The walk Brianna Smeltz was told, she likely would never take.

"I remember everything. Every single little detail," Brianna tells us, as she begins her story.

The 24-year-old was studying criminal justice at Northampton Community College in the Fall of 2015, the perfect career, she says, for someone "with an attitude."

"I'm “You don't like it? There's the door.” I don't care," she says.

And maybe, she says, that's what saved her.

Brianna was halfway through her studies in 2015, when she left campus one day on her motorcycle, and was hit by a car. She flipped over the handlebars, hitting her head, and shattering her femur.

"I couldn't stand up by myself. I couldn't move myself from the wheelchair to the couch. I couldn't give myself a bath, couldn't move myself from the wheelchair to the side toilet I had. I couldn't do anything," she remembers.

The doctors told her, if she walked again, it would be at least a year, and never normally.

But for this tough cookie…”That wasn't going to work for me. There was no ifs, ands, or buts."

She didn't just go to physical therapy, she attacked it. She got a wheelchair, reenrolled in school three months later, and put up an empty picture frame in her hallway that said "coming soon" of her new diploma...

"It just pushes me more and more," she says.

And she walked away from disbelief, so less than two years later, she could walk across the stage on graduation night.

There are scars, some deeper than the eye. Brianna may never be able to have children. Her criminal justice career will have to go in a different direction, as she's not physically able to pass tests required for certain jobs.

But for a woman who almost lost it completely, there's a lot of life in her.

"It makes me feel so good to know I've worked for what I've received, and I made a difference," she tells us.

So, even if life slows you down, Brianna says the trick is, to just keep walking.



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