When she was 11 years old, Victoria Arlenis started experiencing flu-like symptoms, fainting spells, and pneumonia. Within two weeks, she was paralyzed from the waist down and her abilities were gradually slipping away. She had severe inflammation in her brain and spinal cord. Then, she completely lost the ability to speak, eat, and move, entering into a vegetative state.
“How I describe it is like a circuit breaker: Quickly, all the switches are being shut off,” she said.
Arlenis remained in this condition for four long years, during which doctors told her family she’d most likely remain in this state for the rest of her life.
“I was losing her,” her mom, Jacqueline, said. Little did any of them know that in that time, Arlenis woke up. But she couldn’t move; trapped in her own body.
“I was kind of like a ghost living in this shell of a human being,” Arlenis said. “The lights go out August of 2006 for me, as far as memory goes. And then it was January of 2009, when all of a sudden, I’m aware.”
“I’m thinking I’m having a full-on conversation, realizing I can’t move my eyes, and I can’t move my head. And no one’s responding to me.” But she didn’t give up hope.
“I was constantly fighting this pull to just give up,” she said. “But I had so much I wanted to live for.”
Then, in 2010, she was finally able to move and speak, though she was paralyzed from the waist down. She made eye contact with her mother, who instantly knew something was different.
“She’s like, ‘If you can hear me, can you blink? Can you blink twice?’ And I was like this crazy blinker. And she was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! She’s in there!’ And my family realized I’d been in there the whole time.”
Learn more about this survivor’s story and recovery in the video below. What a fighter!