It’s the stuff movies are made of — a story of triumph over tragedy that ends with a hurricane and a wedding.
Meet Thomas Smith, who lives in Marblehead.
“Growing up, I was a hockey player and on track to be a Division I athlete with a good chance of playing professional hockey,” Smith says.
But then, he was paralyzed not once but twice on the ice.
“My first accident was on Aug. 2. 2008,” Smith told the Current. “Doctors said I made a one-in-a-million recovery.”
They cleared him to play again.
He was injured a second time on Oct. 1, 2009.
“The doctor said I had a better chance of winning the lottery five times in a row” than it happening again.
Smith was paralyzed from the waist down and was hospitalized for months.
“It was really hard the first couple years. It wasn’t looking good,” he said.
He was told he would never walk again.
Hoping to encourage his heartbroken mother, Smith made her a promise.
“I told her if I ever fell in love and got married, I would walk her down the aisle,” he said.
On Jan. 11, 2010, Smith was out of the hospital, and his father was driving him to physical therapy. Their car was struck by a distracted driver at Bell Circle in Revere.
“I didn’t walk for almost three years,” Smith said.
But he never gave up, enduring grueling physical therapy and workouts. He can now walk using Lofstrand (forearm) crutches.
“The paralysis is in my right leg. By the grace of God, I made another one-in-a-million recovery,” Smith said.
He has even competed in several Boston Marathons.
He met his bride, Rachel Cox, while boating in Marblehead Harbor.
“I knew after our first date that she was the one,” he said.
The couple was set to get married Saturday, Sept. 16, at Crocker Park, down the street from their home on Darling Street. They created an aisle, so Smith could walk down it with his mother, fulfilling his promise from a few years earlier.
Then, Hurricane Lee started churning up the coast, and Marblehead was forecast to get hit with rain and winds on their wedding day.
“We saw the forecast and honestly started laughing,” he said.
Smith reached out to the Select Board in a letter, sharing his story and asking for emergency permission to use Abbot Hall, and its aisle, for his wedding.
The Select Board gave its unanimous support.
“A promise is something you have to keep,” said member Jim Nye.
So on Saturday, Sept. 16, Smith (with the help of his brother) walked his mother down the aisle at Abbot Hall. Cox walked with her father down the aisle, and the happy couple exchanged their “I do’s.”
The newlyweds are heading to Europe for their honeymoon.
Learn more about Smith, his story and the foundation he started to help others living with paralysis at thomasesmithfoundation.org.