Lawrence teen paralyzed from chest down finding new normal in new home

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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- One moment changed everything for a Lawrence teen. Sixteen-year old Kaleb Hatman is finding his new normal, after taking a dare with dire consequences.

He dove head-first into a pond near Free State High School in May, and now says it has changed his life and his outlook on life.

“I was like 20 bucks and I`ll do it,” Hatman said.

It was May 9th and Hatman was on his lunch break with friends at a pond near Free State High School.  A head-first dive into the pond paralyzed him from the chest down.

“I miscalculated the depth of the water and everything,” Hatman added.

Students often gather near the pond, which is off school property, during breaks.

“Some of them were egging me on, most of them were telling me that it was a bad idea, I just didn`t listen,” Hatman said.

But another student jumped in to help him.

“I was having blood gushing out of my head, which I didn`t know at the time, and I guess he saw and came down to the edge where there was a little bank, and just swam over and grabbed me,” said Hatman.

Hatman said he later found out the pond is 23.5 inches deep. That means he dove in head first into water that's just less than two-feet deep.

“I just remember a rush of adrenaline, I didn`t feel any pain or anything, I just tried to feel my legs, it felt like they were under me, so I thought the water was deep, but found out they were in front of me, like I was sitting on the bottom, so that`s when I knew without having to be told that I was paralyzed,” added Hatman.

“They told him that he was very lucky to be alive,” said Heather Pummer, Kaleb’s Aunt.

Pummer and her husband were already in the process of adopting Kaleb before the accident.

“I think it was poor judgement, to begin with, and life-altering, obviously, and I hate that we got him under these circumstances, but we are so very happy to have him finally,” Pummer said.

She said while Kaleb’s transition hasn't been easy, they're trying to find balance.

“We have a lot of appointments, a lot of therapy, a lot of things that I have to do for him, and teaching him to do things for himself, self-caring is vital to his recovery, he needs to learn basic things that we take for granted all over again,” added Pummer.

Hatman said he's so thankful for his new family and appreciates life even more now.

“It`s just nice having, first of all, someone who`s been there throughout my life mostly, and just someone that`s able to talk to you and listen and relate and know your situation and everything,” Hatman said, ”It`s just changed me in realizing the purpose and the responsibility that life gives you… before I never really had anything to strive for and now I do, to walk again, to be part of a family.”

Kaleb has a teacher at his rehab center. He will attend a new school that`s closer when he`s ready.

Kaleb said his spinal cord was almost completely severed -- so doctors are unsure if he'll ever walk again. Some say it`s too soon to tell.

His family has started a fundraising page to help with expenses.

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