Grad with severe spina bifida overcomes odds, walks across stage to accept diploma

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Step by step, as his graduating class cheered him on Tuesday evening, Bryce Swartz accomplished what doctors once thought he'd never do.

The 20-year-old walked across the stage to accept his Norton High School diploma.

"It's a miracle. I mean, he's a miracle child," said Bryce's dad, Rod Swartz.

Rod said his son was born with a severe case of spina bifida. At first, doctors doubted Bryce would live much longer than a year or two.

"At birth they didn't give much expectancy for him and he's come such a long way in this journey in 20 years of his life and this is just a great stepping stone," Rod said.

It hasn't been an easy road for Bryce. He's already had 12 surgeries and he's paralyzed from the chest down. Instead of letting the tough times steal his spirit, he's working hard to reach his goals.

"Everybody's happy for me," Bryce said.

A year and a half ago, Bryce and his family started planning for graduation night.

"My therapist at the hospital said, 'Have fun. You can do it,'" Bryce said.

It took months and more than 100 therapy sessions, but Bryce's perseverance paid off. He walked across the stage to his dad, who couldn't be more proud of his son.

"The joy he brings all of us, it doesn't stop. Tomorrow is a new day. It's going to be a journey that we just began. We're going to close this chapter and begin another chapter in our lives," Rod said.

For Bryce, that next chapter means a new goal.

"(I want to work at) Walt Disney World in Florida," he said. "I want to be a greeter down there."

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