UPDATE: Community raises money for paralyzed teen's treatment
Austin Whitten, the LaFayette High schooler who was paralyzed in a swimming accident two years ago has raised the money needed for stem cell treatment.
The treatment offers the possibility of walking again.
Over the last few months, the community has rallied together to help out his family raising 40-thousand dollars.
LAFAYETTE, GA (WRCB) - A North Georgia community is rallying around a teenage boy paralyzed in a swimming accident. LaFayette high schooler Austin Whitten broke his neck diving into a swimming pool two years ago and has been in a wheelchair ever since. Now he's been approved for a treatment that offers the possibility of walking again if his family can come up with the money. That's where the community hopes to help.
It'll be exactly two years on June 9th that LaFayette High School athlete Austin Whitten has been confined to a wheelchair, but he just got some exciting news. He's been approved for treatment at the Stem Cell Institute in Panama to try to repair his injured spinal cord and possibly get him out of that chair.
"Feels like it just happened yesterday and I look back it's like it happened almost two years ago," Austin Whitten said.
"As a mom it's still hard. It still breaks your heart and I have those slap you in the face moments," his mom Angie Whitten said.
In a moment that changed his life forever, Austin dove into a swimming pool and broke his neck, which left him paralyzed.
"When my accident first happened I didn't have anything for the first two months or so," Austin said.
But with continued therapy and determination, the 17-year-old now has sporadic moments of feeling sensations in different parts of his body.
"I love it every time he says something hurts, I'm like yes!" Angie said.
That encouragement is escalating. Doctors just approved him for treatment that injects stem cells to regenerate the injured areas of his spinal cord in an effort to get him back on his feet.
The only thing stopping him from trying it, is the around $40,000 price tag on the month-long treatment in Panama. That's where some locals are hoping to help. A few local businesses have pledged donations and are encouraging others to do the same.
"A lot of money, but you can't put a price tag on walking and you can't put a price on a young man's happiness and if we can do this and help him as a community, I think it'd be a very admirable this for anybody to do," Southern Traditions Owner Clay Martin said.
"Would definitely mean a lot, but I hate asking for help. I hate it," Austin said.
The Whittens say they're thankful the community's support and their faith is guiding them toward this recently opened door.
"The verse that stuck to me is Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," Austin said.
If you'd like to donate to Austin's recovery, an account is setup at the Bank of LaFayette. There's also a website: http://www.gofundme.com/9rs354
With summer here, the Whittens also want Austin's story to serve as a reminder about pool safety and how dangerous diving can be.