FOND DU LAC - Thursday night, Fond du Lac High School senior Chris Johnson donned his cap and gown and marched into the field house—the very place where he nearly died last April.
“It's kind of scary because I never thought that I would be right here,” he said.
April 15, 2013, started like any other gym class.
“I was doing the pacer, and I had a striking pain my head and I was running back and forth and the last time I run back I fell down,” said Johnson.
Johnson sent a jumbled text message to his mother as he was wheeled into nurse Sarah Kirchhoff's office.
“Chris was brought into our room with all the signs of a stroke. If you asked him to lift his arm, he couldn't lift his arm. He couldn't smile, he couldn't speak,” said Kirchhoff.
Johnson was flown to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. He underwent emergency surgery to clear three blocked arteries in his brain.
“It was a massive stroke. One that we were told he may not come out,” said his mother Kim Krieser.
“We had never seen that before,” said Kirchhoff.
After four months of rehabilitation, Johnson is doing much better. However, he still has some problems on his right side.
“My fingers on my right hand, it likes to go like that a lot when I type and they told me that I should start trying to write again, too,” said Johnson.
Before the ceremony, Johnson's mother took time to thank the students and staff who helped her son.
“This here is Natasha Smack. She is the one that saved Chris and got help for him right away. If it hadn't been for you and for the staff at Fond du Lac High School, my son wouldn't be here today. So I want to thank you for that. OK?,” said Krieser, hugging the young woman in cap and gown.
Johnson and his parents say his road to recovery has not been smooth.
“I had a mental breakdown after about four or five months that I was home. I broke down and told my mom that I couldn't do this anymore that I don't know what to do and my mom said just keep trying and you'll make it. And look at now! I'm graduating and I'm happy,” said Johnson.
“Pure joy. He's come a long way,” said Krieser.
The young man who last year thought he may never walk again, bringing a proud new meaning to "walking" at graduation.
Johnson says he plans to go to school to be a veterinary technician.