Paralyzed Teen Megan Silcott Walks in New York Fashion Week

Megan Silcott was left paralyzed by a a rare neurological disorder

February 18, 2015, 9:44 AM

— -- Megan Silcott seems like a typical teenager, one who loves spending time with her family and dreams of a career in fashion.

But make no mistake, there is nothing ordinary about this Maryland teen.

Life as Megan knows it today began two years ago.

“When I was 16 years old, one night I was out with my friends and I had to come home, I didn’t feel that great,” she said. “I went to bed and I woke up in the morning and I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t walk.”

PHOTO: There is nothing ordinary about Maryland teen Megan Silcott.
There is nothing ordinary about Maryland teen Megan Silcott.
Courtesy Jen Silcott

Megan, once an athlete and aspiring model, was paralyzed overnight from the neck down.

An undiagnosed case of mononucleosis (mono) led to Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), a rare neurological disorder that attacked Megan's brain and spine.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Megan recalled. “I thought, ‘Why did this happen to me? How am I not walking?’”

For many teens the inability to walk might have been soul-crushing, but that was not the case for Megan, who never gave up on her dreams of modeling.

“I told myself I was going to heal from this and I was going to be able to pursue everything I wanted to pursue before,” she said.

Megan's mom, Jen Silcott, still remembers what the neurologist told the family about Megan's recovery.

“The neurologist said to me that this was not going to be a sprint, it was going to be a marathon,” Silcott recalled.

Today, that marathon continues at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, where Megan has been making great strides.

“She started out kind of in the power chair, with not a ton of function in her arms or legs, and she’s progressed to walking with the walker,” said her physical therapist, Lizzie Neighbors.

The biggest leap forward for Megan came this winter when representatives of the Art Institutes of New York called Megan and introduced her to fashion designer Nina Perdomo. Perdomo had heard about Megan’s story and asked her to walk in New York Fashion Week wearing one of Perdomo’s designs.

PHOTO: Maryland teen Megan Silcott walks in a New York Fashion Week show, Feb. 17, 2015.
Maryland teen Megan Silcott walks in a New York Fashion Week show, Feb. 17, 2015.
Jen Silcott

“I design for a woman that is strong and knows what she wants from life,” Perdomo said. “And I feel like Megan is the perfect example of that.”

"I think just getting out there and showing everyone I can do it," Megan said when asked what she was most looking forward to in her runway debut. "That I'm confident enough to walk down the runway with a walker."

On Monday night, Megan walked down the prestigious runway, taking center stage at Lincoln Center in New York City.

"Here I was not able to move, not thinking I would ever be able to walk again," she said. "You know, it just goes to show that anything is possible and if you put your mind to it, it can get done."