TAMPA – It was on the final day of summer camp with his church group when 15-year-old Trey Smetana's life forever changed.
The Ocala teen began his day on July 13, 2017 as a star student athlete and gymnast, an all around popular guy with big ambitions of becoming an actor someday and maybe even playing sports professionally.
But Smetana's day ended in the intensive care unit at Tampa General Hospital.
While attempting to do a back flip on an inflatable bounce house at the Wimauma camp, Smetana instead landed head first onto the concrete below. He suffered two broken bones in his neck and a bruised spinal cord, among other injuries.
The injuries left the teen paralyzed, unable to walk, with limited mobility in his arms and hands.
"It's very hard," said Norma Smetana, the teen's mother. "We never thought this would happen in our life."
The teen’s parents say the accident should serve as a warning of the dangers of bounce houses. An estimated 113,000 people were hospitalized with injuries from bounce houses between 2003-2013, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Doctors say it is unlikely Smetana will regain his ability to walk.
“The spinal cord that helps the brain communicate with his body and his body communicate back with the brain was severely injured," said Dr. Paul Kornberg, director of the children's medical center at Tampa General Hospital.
"The longer we go where he hasn't seen the return of his strength, the more concerning it is that he'll be left disability related to this."
Even so, Kornberg says "anything is possible" given advancements being made all the time in medicine.
The teen’s family, guided by Smetana’s own attitude, is hopeful that he can beat the odds.
“If you believe it, you will achieve it,” the teen said smiling, remarking that he is determined to one day walk again.
"What keeps me positive is my faith," Trey said. "I believe that I will achieve walking, I know one day very soon that I'm going to get up and walk and with my story I'm going to change another person's life."
Staff and nurses threw Smetana a ‘rehab graduation’ on Monday, Sept. 25 as he prepared to leave for home for the first time in nearly three months.
While Trey is able to finally leave the hospital, doctors say his recovery will continue to require extensive medical attention and equipment. The family has set up a GoFundMe to pay for medical expenses.
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