JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY - Juggling rehab and school- that's what Hugo Rubirosa had been doing for a year and a half after becoming paralyzed during a wrestling match. But all that hard work payed off Wednesday night as he graduated from Jacksonville High School.
NewsChannel 12 caught up with Rubirosa before his graduation ceremony.
"I'm going to feel great. I'm going to feel accomplished.," Rubirosa said. "I mean, I got out of high school. I did all my work, I finished it, and I'm out."
Rubirosa was 17 years old when he broke his fourth and fifth vertebrae in his neck during a wrestling match at West Carteret High School. It happened on Jan. 3, 2012. Rubirosa became paralyzed from the neck down.
"I was just waiting to get up," Rubirosa said. "I felt like it was going to happen at any time, and I was just going to wake up from a dream and just get up off the bed and walk out of there."
In October, Rubirosa was able to take his first assisted steps since the accident.The teen used the Lokomat robotic body weight-supported treadmill trainer at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
Rubirosa then continued his treatment at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, where he is making significant progress.
"I have more control over my legs. I'm stronger. Even my legs are bigger and my torso," Rubirosa told NewsChannel 12. "I'm slowly regaining control of my body."
Even while going through rehab, Rubirosa never lost sight of high school. He kept up his classwork, but said juggling both therapy and school was tough.
"Like falling behind in class, I had to change classes. I had to degrade classes because it was so much work that I just wasn't there for," Rubirosa said.
Now that high school is finally over, Rubirosa said he plans to attend ECU in the fall. But his ultimate goal is to one day walk again.
"The human body is limitless, it just is." Rubirosa said. "God made us that way. He told us he'd give us anything we want, but that's because we have to work for it. We have to go get it....so I'm just getting it."