VANCOUVER — Her classmates were in awe.
There were extra loud cheers from the crowd.
Jessica Beckman had a huge smile on her face as she accomplished what she set out to do Saturday afternoon, something many medical experts said would never happen.
Beckman walked across the stage at Fort Vancouver High School’s commencement ceremony, the first time she has walked publicly since she suffered a stroke her freshman year.
Beckman still uses a wheelchair every day. However, on Saturday, for a few feet and with the aid of a walker, she ditched the chair and made her way across the stage.
It was a walk three years in the making.
“They told us she would never walk or talk again,” said Jessica’s mother, Clara Beckman. “She fooled everybody. She’s awesome.”
In a hospital for months after the stroke, Beckman returned to Fort Vancouver, on a limited schedule, her sophomore year. By her junior year, she was back to a full schedule.
Saturday, she graduated. On time. With her class.
“The whole senior class started applauding her, and then everybody did,” said Jessica’s father, Randy Beckman. “It was something that, frankly, when all this happened three years ago, we didn’t think this day would ever happen.”
Family, teachers, friends are all inspired by Jessica’s progress.
“She’s just a miracle,” said Susan Harris, a paraeducator who works one-on-one with Jessica. “It’s amazing she is still alive.”
In fact, a few days after the stroke, her family was put in the horrifying position of making a decision concerning life support. The next day, Jessica did show signs.
In layman’s terms, Jessica suffered from a “whole body” stroke. The Beckmans were told only 10 percent survive, and of those survivors, only 1 percent walk and/or talk again. When she first started physical therapy, Jessica only had the ability to blink her eyes.
Jessica has crushed the odds.
“It’s a real effort,” Harris said. “She has not given up one time. The girl just knocked it out of the park.”
School counselor Mike Dillman said he remembered Jessica before the stroke as a student who enjoyed every moment of school. Her sophomore year had its difficult moments, but that same positive spirit returned her junior year.
“She’s made amazing gains,” Dillman said. “She’s back now. Same kid who loves school and always has a smile on her face.”
Jessica said “It’s great” to have been able to continue her studies at Fort Vancouver. Math is her favorite subject.
She also remains determined. Quiet and a student of few words now, she expects her speech will improve with more therapy.
As far as walking goes, that has been the goal since the beginning of her recovery. In fact, she made things more difficult for herself in the short term to remind herself of the long-term goal. Jessica has been offered a motorized wheelchair more than once.
“She refused because she wants to walk,” Clara Beckman said. “She knew if she had a motorized wheelchair, she wouldn’t want to walk.”
Saturday, she walked in front of all of her peers.
“When everybody started cheering and applauding, that was big,” Randy Beckman said.