HOUSTON - A high school cheerleader from Prosper, north of Dallas, has been healing in Houston after a catastrophic injury.
She broke her neck, and it dramatically transitioned her life from tumbling on the field to therapy in a wheelchair. She has an incredibly positive attitude though and wants others to know, it's possible to enjoy a high-quality life as a quadriplegic.
Sixteen-year-old Makayla Noble, also known as Mak, is a world-champion cheerleader. She's known for her competitive high-flying gymnastics and enthusiastic personality.
On September 20, Mak was hanging out with about 30 other students, teaching them how to do a backflip.
"It was just a freak accident, it went wrong. I fell on my throat first, and then my face. And then as I landed, my neck turned to the side," describes Mak.
She couldn't feel anything from her neck down and knew it was serious.
"They told my parents before I went into surgery, she's never going to walk again. She's not going to be able to do like a lot of things," explains Mak.
When Mak fractured her neck, it injured her spinal cord. She spent a month recovering in ICU in Plano. Then on her 17th birthday, she was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston.
"In the beginning, I didn't like any of the leg exercises, because it kind of made me sad, you know? It just kind of freaked me out, I guess. The fact that my legs were in these machines and they were moving, but I wasn't moving them. They're just kind of laying there, so I think I enjoy the upper body more," says Mak.
One of Mak's doctors from TIRR Memorial Hermann says those exercises are paramount right now to try to recover the nerves.
She has use of her triceps, but since her neck injury involves all four limbs, it's considered quadriplegia, or the newest term is tetraplegia.
This next year is the most important of all.
"Nerves are trying to heal for up to a year after this kind of injury and so for the first couple of months, it can be really hard to know exactly how much is going to come back. Young, healthy people like her do tend to have more neurological recovery than people who are a little bit older or who have other health problems. I think the uncertainty that goes along with this kind of injury is one of the hardest things about it," explains Dr. Davis.
As the Medical Director of spinal cord injuries at TIRR Memorial Hermann and UTHealth, Dr. Matt Davis couldn't be more impressed with Mak's attitude about her life-changing accident.
"I think there's something about being a cheerleader. I think when you spend that much time encouraging other people, I can see how that would be something that would lead into every aspect of your life. And clearly, it was a very positive attitude while she was here," says Dr. Davis.
Mak admits it's not easy adjusting to her new lifestyle, but she fully accepts what happened.
"I grew up in a Christian home, and I've just really found strength through Him and the support from other people. But it's kind of hard because people are like, if I was in your situation, I would never be happy and crying all the time. And I tell people, I just have such a sense of peace. Of course, I get sad, everybody gets sad, but I would say about 75% of the time, I'm very happy with my injury and everything. Obviously, I'm not happy it happened, but I'm very at peace with it, and it's part of my plan, I guess," states Mak.
Mak is now re-thinking her future. She was planning to cheer in college and was about to take a trip to 14 countries and study abroad. Her doctor says even though she'll need to tweak her plans, she still has an incredibly bright future to look forward to.
"Whatever happens, however much nerve recovery she has or doesn't have, she will still have a productive life. Women with spinal cord injuries can still raise families, they can still bear children the natural way, they can get jobs. Her brain is fine! She's a smart girl," says Dr. Davis.
She's so smart, she was able to skip her junior year in high school and advance to 12th grade.
Everyone who knows and loves Mak knows she'll accomplish many more goals, all with a smile on her face and still cheering-on those around her.