Last year Ondelee Perteet’s entire world was turned on it’s head. When trying to end a conflict at a party, his whole life was altered within a blink of the eye. My former classmate, my friend became a paraplegic at fourteen years of age because of inexcusable gun violence. This tragedy happened just days before his fifteenth birthday, as well as his first day as a freshman is high school.
Seeing him in the hospital, in the rehabilitation center, and at home has been a life-changing experience. He was no longer the hyperactive and athletic Ondelee who I became accustomed to knowing and seeing. He was now a fifteen year old that was paralyzed from the shoulders down. This was my friend that was now bound to his motorized wheelchair. This definitely was not the same Ondelee who gave me candy during Social Studies class in the eighth grade. It was that day, that very first day when I saw him in the hospital when it really hit me. This is real. It’s serious. I then thought of the millions of things, he wouldn’t be able to do anymore.
But do you know what’s truly amazing? He has the best disposition imaginable. His attitude is the exact opposite of what you would expect of a paralyzed teenager. Never once, not one single time after the incident have I ever seen him without his huge smile. I like to think of it as his trademark. Even after he told me the painful story of how the incident happened, he didn’t shed not a single tear. Never once have I seen him bitter, resentful or angry. He says that he will walk again and I pray that he’s right.
Ever since that life-changing event, he has been more positive than ever. His maturity has skyrocketed. He seems more focused, as in mentally focused. His mind seems to be more optimistic and well…more mature. I swear, I can see a genuine change in him. A very good change.
Now Ondelee speaks to other schools about his injury and how it has changed his life. Seeing him doing something so proactive makes me proud. Recently, he received an award for doing such things. I’m happy knowing that he’s sharing his life altering incident and inspiring many people, including myself. He shows teens that no matter how tough they may be, their bodies are still not invincible. One time when he went to speak to elementary school students, he was asked if he viewed life differently now. Then with his signature grin, he said, “Yes, because I got a second chance at it.”
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