When a devastating car accident left Bruce Mansy paralyzed from the waist down, the 7-year-old dancing maven wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to move again.
“I was really sad after the accident,” Bruce, winner of his elementary school’s dance competition, tells PEOPLE of the September 2016 incident in Fresno, California. “Dancing used to make me happy.”
But after a month of rigorous rehab at Project Walk, the dancing king is able to wiggle his body again — rocking and spinning in his wheelchair. It’s an exciting feat for the second grader, who especially loves to dab, Whip and Nae Nae.
“And now I’m very happy again!” says Bruce, who has been moving and grooving since he could walk. “I can dance again.”
Bruce suffered a severe spinal cord injury when a driver failed to yield and slammed into the car his father, Samuel Mansy, was driving. His sister Carrie, 3, and brother Jacob, 11, were in the back and sustained minor injuries, while Samuel suffered a spinal disc herniation. Bruce’s mother, Lyhoy, and his brother Samson, 15, were not in the car.
“I was FaceTiming the kids in the back when I heard a loud noise and the phone fell on the floor,” Lyhoy, who was at a conference out of town on the day of the accident, tells PEOPLE. “I was trying to piece together what happened and then I saw smoke.
“I knew something had gone terribly wrong. ”
Bruce, who was bleeding internally, was rushed to a hospital, where he received emergency surgery.
“I was worried he was going to die,” Samuel, 33, tells PEOPLE. “But I refused to believe it.”
Bruce spent almost two months at the hospital near his Fresno, California, home before he was released. Doctors told his parents his paralysis was “complete” — and they didn’t have hope he’d ever walk again.
“We didn’t want someone else’s mistake breaking [our family] apart,” says Lyhoy, 33. “We didn’t want to accept that this was how it was going to end. So we kept pushing Bruce to stay strong.
“We knew we were going to make it through.”
At Project Walk, an activity-based recovery facility, Bruce is rebuilding his core strength and his balance. Therapists use his favorite dance move, the Dab, to help him get over his fear of trying to balance on his own. Bruce’s parents,, who are raising money for his treatment, say the therapy is working.
“He is so determined we keep pushing him and pushing him,” says Samuel. “This isn’t going to stop him from dancing, he is finding other ways to express his love for dancing and creativity.”
Bruce, who is able to rock from side to side and dance by pushing himself around in circles in his wheelchair is, finally, able to get back to his favorite activity.
“I’m happy, because I can dance again,” says Bruce, who aspires to be a firefighter when he grows up. “I’m just trying to find a way to keep dancing.”