It had taken months of tireless hard work and dedication, but as this paralyzed bride faced her husband-to-be on their wedding day, she knew that what she was about to do would be totally worth it. And her guests never saw it coming.
The story really begins, however, in March 2008. At that time, 21-year-old Gina Springhower – then Giaffoglione – was living the dream. Indeed, the student from McClelland, Iowa, was thriving at Wayne State College in Nebraska and had already founded a successful gymnastic business.
“I had more than 80 kids enrolled in my own gymnastics gym,” she said in an interview with USA Today. “It was great money for a college student. I was independent.”
Gina was also a popular young woman and enjoyed hanging out with her buddies. But, seemingly out of nowhere, one fateful decision changed this active young student’s life forever.
The evening of March 21, 2008 was just an average night. Gina, like countless college students before her, went out with some friends before heading to a party. She planned to drive herself home at the end of the night but, at the last minute, decided to get a lift from a buddy instead. So, in her friend’s car, Gina sat in the front passenger seat on someone’s lap – without a seatbelt.
Then, as the car approached a sharp bend, the driver lost control and the car flipped, hurling Gina into the air. When she regained consciousness, Gina found herself laying facedown, and she had lost all feeling in her legs.
She was flown to Sioux City before being transferred to a hospital in Omaha a week later. She would remain there for the next month – but this was just the beginning of her ordeal.
After all, she had broken her back and was paralyzed from the waist down. Gina continued, then, to be treated as an outpatient until October 2008. Amazingly, though, she returned to college the following January.
Nine months later, in October 2009, Gina got a call from John Springhower out of the blue. She knew John because they had gone to high school together back in Iowa, but they had since lost touch. So when John had asked Gina’s dad about how Gina was doing, her did had suggested that John ask her himself.
“It was the only time my dad’s matchmaking setup worked,” Gina said later. In fact, very soon the couple’s relationship would begin to blossom into something amazing.
Indeed, in December 2012 John took Gina to see a performance of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. And, while posing for a photo afterward, John popped the question.
Gina was, of course, thrilled and gave John’s proposal an emphatic “yes.” However, there was a condition to the marriage; Gina was adamant that she wanted a long engagement. After all, there was something that she needed to do first.
Despite not having the use of her legs, Gina was determined that on her wedding day she would walk down the aisle. What’s more, she planned to do everything it took to make her dream come true.
So, in February 2011, after Gina graduated from college, she started her intensive rehabilitation program. She knew there was a long way to go, but little by little, she grew in confidence and ability.
“I did therapy up until the week before the wedding,” Gina said. “It starts with stretching to get into the braces. Once I got used to them, I got in a harness with the braces, then in the braces using a walker, then progressing to full-arm crutches.”
“When you can’t feel anything and you’re doing something that you used to take for granted,” said Gina. “It’s a floating sensation you can’t even explain.”
It took more than a year of grueling physiotherapy for Gina to get within touching distance of her dream. Eventually, though, she got to a point where she could walk with a brace and crutches. Specialists at her clinic even designed a subtle leg brace for her to wear under her wedding dress.
Finally, on September 13, 2014, Gina walked down the aisle and married John, the love of her life. Gina had kept the whole thing a secret from her guests, who were, naturally, left entirely speechless.
Heartwarmingly, just a couple of months after they got married, Gina and John found out that they were going to be parents. Gina documented the pregnancy on social media, and on December 22, 2015, their son LaKota Ray was born.
Nowadays, Gina travels up and down the country visiting high schools, colleges, rehab centers and hospitals wowing audiences and offering hope as she relays her inspiring story. She is, after all, a truly remarkable woman.