FLOWER MOUND, Texas — Monique McDown's goal to serve others by becoming a Mormon missionary in her mom's native Brazil was seriously sidetracked when a car struck her and the driver fled the scene.
But a year later, back at home in Flower Mound, she said she's realized it merely changed her path. And it's made her an inspiration to others in a completely different way.
“It was fast and a really crazy experience," McDown said of the moment she was hit by a car during a Sunday walk with a friend along the streets of Curitiba, Brazil – a country notorious for a lack of sidewalks.
She said she can remember hearing an engine rev and a car approach her quickly from behind.
“He did look at me," she said of the driver after he slammed into the ride side of her body. "We made eye contact. But he drove away as fast as he could."
She woke up in a hospital. Her spine was damaged. Her nerves crushed. Her right leg paralyzed. And she was given no promise she would be able to walk normally again.
“I remember thinking I’m 21 years old. I have so much more of my life," McDown said. "So it was hard to think this is how it’s going to be for the rest of my life. But it was very hard to realize this is kind of my reality now.”
But back home in the United States, she attacked rehabilitation as best she could. At first, she could only drag the leg that she could no longer feel. But slowly, over the course of a full year, she started to improve.
“One year ago, when I was hit, I decided that I would make this, to allow me to become better and to be a better person," McDown said. "I decided to become better from it.”
And then, just this past weekend, in her own yard at home in Flower Mound – her dad with a cellphone camera in hand and her mom providing a steadying hand just in case – McDown finally let go of her mom's hands and walked several tenuous steps on her own.
“I was just so happy," she said. "I couldn’t believe it was happening. I kept having to look down and make myself believe this is true this is happening."
“We always knew that she was going to walk again," said Nancy McDown, Monique's mother. "I know that she’s still going to walk again. So, we never had that doubt.”
McDown still can't feel her leg from the knee down. She walks dragging a right foot she still can't feel. But she will return to college at Brigham Young University in the fall. And she's felt the love of thousands who have responded to her Facebook video.
The young woman who wanted to inspire people serving as a missionary is serving as an inspiration to so many more people now.
“It’s amazing that something so hard like that happens how much good can come out of it," her mom said.
“It’s an amazing feeling to know that I’m making a difference in any way that I can," McDown said.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as the age-old saying goes. Monique is now on our own new journey, bravely embracing it one single step at a time.