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Paralyzed bride, husband inspire others

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Paralyzed bride back from honeymoon
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rachelle Friedman was paralyzed after injury at bachelorette party
  • Her best friend playfully pushed her into a swimming pool; she sustained a spinal injury
  • She has maintained a close friendship with her best friend
  • She and Chris Chapman married July 22

(CNN) -- Through it all, Chris Chapman and Rachelle Friedman have been there for each other.

Their story of a young woman paralyzed at her bachelorette party and determined ever since to regain her independence has inspired a legion of supporters who have kept up with her therapy and, most recently, their fantasy wedding and honeymoon.

"We've heard a lot of stories, big and small, of gaining confidence and overcoming adversity, however it shows up in your life," Chris Chapman, 28, told HLN's "Prime News" on Friday.

The newlyweds from Knightdale, North Carolina, were married July 22, 14 months after Rachelle Friedman Chapman was left paralyzed by a pool mishap.

They've just returned from Las Vegas and a weeklong honeymoon in Fiji.

Paralyzed bride ties the knot
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The couple told "Prime News" there was never a chance Chapman would have called off the relationship after the traumatic injury.

They also talked about the wedding at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, N.C.

When it came time to exchange vows, Chapman and the pastor sat down next to Rachelle, 25.

"It was important I could look into her eyes and be at the same level," said the groom, a middle school science teacher.

For Friedman, a quadriplegic, life is about moving forward and gaining increased independence.

In late May 2010, Friedman, who was a program coordinator for a senior citizens center, traveled to her hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, for her bachelorette party.

She enjoyed a cookout and a limousine ride to the entertainment strip with her bridesmaids. "We had a really good time," the East Carolina University graduate said in November.

Afterward, the group went to her best friend's home, where they started playing around near the pool.

"It was just spontaneous horseplay," said Friedman, a former dance and aerobics dancer. Her best friend "pushed me, and I landed wrong."

Friedman, who suffered a spinal cord injury and paralysis from the chest down, has remained close to the friend through the trauma each suffered.

After CNN wrote about Chapman and Friedman and HLN's Vinnie Politan interviewed Friedman, a wedding and honeymoon planning company approached the couple.

"It blew me away, how upbeat and positive she is," said Donne Kerestic, CEO of 1-800-Registry, based in Nevada. The company paid for the wedding and honeymoon.

After the ceremony, Toyota Motor Sales USA and the Braun Corp. gave the couple a new wheelchair-accessible van.

While she still has dreams of being able to walk one day, Friedman focuses now on increasing her strength and possibly regaining feeling in her hands.

Friedman also anticipates three weeks of treatment at Project Walk, a facility in Carlsbad, California, that helps people with spinal cord injuries.

The Walking With Anthony Foundation is covering the costs for Rachelle and her mother, Carol Friedman, said Gigi Betancourt, client services manager at Project Walk.

CNN's Phil Gast contributed to this report.

 
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