Madison Gill, paralyzed in accident two years ago, makes arduous journey with help of Intermountain Health caregivers to walk cross high school graduation stage.

Madison Gill’s journey to receive her 2024 at Hurricane High School diploma was unlike any other.

Two years ago an accident left her paralyzed. But thanks to her determination, she made an arduous journey of intensive physical therapy with the help of family, friends, the support of Intermountain Health caregivers, and an unwavering committment to herself.

It was a long journey, In the summer of 2022, an accident left Madison, affectionately known as “Madi,” unable to walk. After a day of cliff jumping, laughter, and music with friends at Sand Hollow Reservoir in southern Utah, she was in the backseat of a truck that rolled.

Gill, not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected through the back passenger window.

She still recalls the impact, the feeling of lying outside the truck, and the comforting presence of a police officer until she lost consciousness, only to awaken in a hospital room with her mother by her side.

“I couldn’t move my legs. I remember I just kept crying over and over and apologizing to my mom,” Gill said. She was admitted to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital with a T-12 spinal fracture, wrist fracture, ankle fracture, and numerous other injuries.

Gill, who at the time of the accident was a cheerleader, spent months in the hospital and inpatient rehab following the accident. Although difficult, she remembers the kindness and care of those involved in her treatment. Moments like celebrating her birthday with a brief mall visit coordinated by her caregivers, and a small party with cake in a conference room—a day that held profound meaning for her.

When it was time to leave the hospital and go home, she recalled practicing getting in and out of the car for days in anticipation.

“It’s harder than you think it is,” Gill laughed, as she remembered the process of what something was once she had never had to think twice about.

Her mother and sister became certified caregivers, supporting Gill as she adjusted to her new reality at home. But life had another curveball in store: the loss of one of her best friends in a climbing accident plunged Gill into depression, halting her progress.

It would be several months before Gill decided she wanted to try again. In August of ‘23, she needed to stand to get something for her nephew.

“I took four steps,” Gill said.

Those four steps were important as she chose then to dedicate herself to try and walk again. She expressed her desire to return to physical therapy, and her mother knew just who to call: Tyson Winder, a physical therapist with Intermountain Hurricane Physical Therapy Clinic, who had previously worked with her family.

“The goal that she expressed was that she wanted to walk across the stage at graduation,” Winder said of their first meeting in January of this year.

Gill and Winder got to work. First, she needed an ankle fusion to help combat some of the problems she was experiencing. After that procedure, Winder was able to start, by also pushing her to gain confidence and ability.

Winder said he focused on not making it too complex. It was literally training her body to take steps, working through the atrophy, how her body shifted, the way her sides rotated. Together, they made small strides, as she could walk 100 steps in just a few months time.

“Tyson is my best friend; he is the person who pushes me when I need it; he doesn’t coddle or baby me; he is a huge reason I am walking across the graduation stage,” Gill said.

As the week before graduation approached, they game planned “the walk” and even went to the field the day before to do a practice walk.

They evaluated the stage, the precise steps, all in hopes of making it. Winder blocked out his schedule as he said he was not going to miss it.

Gill then had one final request of Winder: Walk alongside her on the stage.

Graduation day came on May 22, 2024.

With a crowd of support that included her family, friends, caregivers, the police officers at the accident, school administrators, and peers, Gill crossed the graduation stage confidently, accepting her diploma with Winder by her side.

Gill achieved what she said she thought was once impossible. Each step, each movement, each one of those 105 feet walked represented a moment of self-growth, a person who supported her on her journey, the courage and confidence she built in the face of her trials, and the future she has ahead.

“It meant a lot that she trusted me that much,” Winder said. “Here you have this cheerleader, who had her world turned upside down, and she trusted us to help her and then to receive that honor to be with her in such a moment. It truly was such an honor.”

“Walking across the graduation stage was a huge relief because it meant I had actually graduated high school,” said Gill. “School was challenging even before the accident, and the year after was even tougher. But when senior year came, I was determined to finish strong and walk across that stage. In that moment, all I could think was, ‘Don’t fall, don’t trip, just get it done.’ And I did.”

About Intermountain Health

Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Health is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called Select Health with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.