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Logan Olson

Logan Olson couldn’t believe she’d just tripped. But there she was, waiting to cross the stage at her high school graduation, when her new black shoes nearly sent her sprawling.

There was still time to back out, retreat to the audience with her parents. But then Logan would miss her only shot at crossing the stage before her younger brother. She’d spent hours rehearsing at the Spokane Opera House, practicing long after her classmates went home.

A few years earlier, Logan, who was born with congenital heart disease, didn’t know if she’d ever walk again, let alone graduate. She’d been walking through a haunted house on Halloween 2001 with her dad and two brothers when she suddenly collapsed. She survived the heart attack, but fell into a coma that left her with a brain injury.

When she woke up, Logan thought she was 10 instead of a 16-year-old with a boyfriend and driver’s license. She couldn’t hold up her head, talk or swallow. She had to learn the most basic skills, like chewing and brushing her teeth, all over again. It took a month to sit up, 2-1/2 months to focus her eyes.

A nurse suggested filling Logan’s hospital room with stimulating things that are important to teenage girls, such as clothes, lotions and music. And it worked. Soon Logan was mouthing the words to a favorite Christian music CD.

After 7 months at Sacred Heart Medical Center and St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Wash., Logan went home. She could feed herself and stand. But she still had a long way to go.

“I wanted out of sweat pants,” says Logan, who has two closets jammed with trendy clothes, shoes and scarves. “I love to shop so much.”

So, fastening the buttons on her Gap jeans and tying shoes became part of her therapy. She also longed to wear makeup again, but found the bottles and tubes impossible to open and hold properly with uncooperative fingers.

She pored through fashion magazines for alternatives, but came up empty-handed. And that’s when the idea struck: The world needs a magazine for young women with disabilities. A magazine featuring girls like her, with tips on easy-to-handle beauty products and clothes. She envisioned a place where they could share advice on meeting challenges and living well.

Logan wants to encourage teens to celebrate fashion instead of giving up on it, to enjoy attention-getting styles and colors. “Do your makeup still. Do your hair still. Keep living, keep living, keep living!” she says.

On her road back to style, Logan encountered plenty of setbacks, like fainting in JC Penney’s during her first trip back to the mall. There were other disappointments, too. Old friends drifted away in a whirl of typical teen activities she couldn’t participate in anymore.

Logan focused instead on her new goals and steady progress. At therapy sessions, she practiced using her walker. But she also learned to project her voice and speak more clearly so she could make business presentations about the magazine. Speech therapist Jill Syth created Logan-friendly practice sentences: “Let’s go to Nordstrom’s and buy shoes.”

Logan learned to complete order forms and schedule meetings using a day planner, and she worked hard at writing clearly. “She just has that light shining inside of her,” said Syth. “She’s one of the most motivated people I’ve ever worked with.”

When she returned to high school after a 2-year absence, Logan met Mary O. Gustafson, a special education teacher who shares her love of fashion. They played games together to improve Logan’s memory. Logan learned to type again, preparing to answer letters from magazine readers. Gradually, a new circle of friends emerged.

Then last spring, Logan’s younger brother, T.J., was poised to graduate from high school. Logan admitted it really bothered her. She’d already watched T.J. get his driver’s license, a rite of passage she’d had to forfeit. “That sucked so bad,” said Logan, who’d had her license eight months when her heart stopped.

Although Logan would attend classes one more year, North Central High School officials offered her the chance to cross the stage for a certificate of attendance—moments before her brother.

But could she do it? Her walking was shaky, especially when she was nervous. Her parents worried but let Logan decide. And she couldn’t resist. She practiced breathing slowly, accepting the certificate, and finding her seat.

When the big day came and she tripped backstage three times, Logan hesitated. Then she decided the stage was just one more hurdle, like so many others she cleared.

In the end, she made it all the way across on her own, stylish black shoes leading the way.

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 The Cerebral Palsy Network©1997/2014. All graphics are the exclusive property of CPN, unless otherwise indicated. Contact Cerebral Palsy Network   for further information. Last updated 05/05/14