Teen Paralyzed in Crash Finds Strength After Life-Changing Moment Before Surgery: 'Heaven Is Real'

"When you're positive and have a good mindset only good things will come," Ryan Estrada said

A 16-year-old who was left paralyzed in a car crash says that the traumatic accident has restored his faith and his will to live.

Ryan Estrada, of Richmond, Virginia, was driving to high school for his first day of swim practice on Nov. 8 when he lost control of his vehicle after trying to avoid a bicyclist.

“I remember swerving past the biker and there was another car coming in the lane, so I had to swerve back into my lane,” he told WTVR. “I remember losing control of the wheel, hitting the mailbox and then hitting the tree.”

Hanging out the vehicle, Ryan knew something was immediately wrong when he couldn’t feel anything. After being rushed to the hospital, he was told that he had a broken vertebrae in his neck and a severe spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis of his hands and legs.

As he was about to go into surgery, his outlook on the situation suddenly changed.

“I remember my uncle, I saw him in like heaven, and he told me that I’m going to get through the surgery and everything is going to be alright, so I knew from that moment, I was smiling,” he recalled. “I looked over at my mom and told her everything was going to be okay — You know uncle Jack, he’s got me.”


Ryan told WTVR that he also saw his grandfather, who he’s only ever seen in family photos.

“I think it means heaven is real and God’s real and that I’m here for a reason. I didn’t die for a reason,” he added. “I think it happened to regain my faith. I wasn’t really a religious person the last year going through depression. But ever since the accident every day [I’m] praying.”

After his week-long stay at VCU Medical Center, Ryan was moved to the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Center at VCU where he’s undergoing physical and occupational therapy. Ryan could go home as early as December 27.

While he’s working on his recovery, a GoFundMe page was also set up to help with everything from medical bills to all the necessary equipment he’ll need.

“The gratitude and indebtedness I feel for people and just the love it’s so overwhelming, but it’s the thing that Ryan talks about and I feel it every day,” his mom Caroline told the news outlet.

And as “desolate as it may seem,” she says, this is the happiest she’s seen her son in the last couple of years. He’s also reminded her since the accident that everything happens for a reason.

“We don’t know that reason yet, but it happened for a reason and after seeing pictures of his car there is a reason Ryan is here. He is going to make good on his promise to touch lives in some way but hasn’t figured that out yet,” she said.

For Ryan, it’s as simple as just throwing a “smile on my face.”

“There’s no point in being negative,” says Ryan who turns 17 on Sunday and is positive he’ll be able to walk and swim again one day. “That doesn’t do anything for you but when you’re positive and have a good mindset only good things will come.”

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