When Jennifer Darmon and Mike Belawetz get married next month, the ceremony will be especially emotional because Jen plans to get out of her wheelchair and walk down the aisle.
"It was Mike's idea," says Jen, 28, who was paralyzed in a 2008 car crash. "I was thinking there's no way I'm going to roll down the aisle. Mike said, why don't you walk with two people on both arms. They will be your crutches."
Jen travels three times a week from her home in Ontario, Canada, to the Detroit Medical Center's Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan for aggressive therapy designed to treat people with devastating spinal-cord injuries.
She and Mike, who has stood by her despite her paralysis, are recording her progress in a video diary, "Walk for Love," on the institute's website. There have been two episodes so far, with a third due to be posted on Tuesday.
They are making the videos to inspire other paralysis victims. "Somebody else might see it and it might motivate them to achieve their goals. Nothing is impossible," Jen says.
Before her devastating accident, they were just a carefree young couple. They met in the bank in Essex, Ontario, where Jen was a teller.
"He was a very frequent customer," she jokes in their video diary. "He wasn't asking me out, so I got impatient…I handed him my phone number."
Mike is a paramedic and "the uniform definitely was nice," she says.
"Obviously what attracted me to Jen was her looks, because she's beautiful, and she has a great personality," says Mike, 24, in the video.
On July 27, 2008, Jen, Mike and five other friends were headed to the beach in Grand Bend, Ontario, when their minivan was struck head-on. The other passengers got out of the van without serious injuries, but she was trapped, and Mike and his friends had to get her out.
She was airlifted to London Hospital where she was in intensive care for a week and learned that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
When Jen was told soon after the crash that she would never walk again, "it kind of crossed my mind that he might not stay," she says in the video about Mike. "Right away he reassured me that he wasn't going anywhere."
"The situation's changed, but she's still the same person, " says Mike.
Last June, on the fourth anniversary of their romance, he proposed, and Jen began her fight to walk down the aisle, wearing braces on her legs.
She is practicing at the rehabilitation facility where she has been treated since the fall of 2008, wearing an old wedding dress belonging to a therapist there. "She said, 'I just got married, and you're more than welcome to borrow my dress to practice in,'" says Jen.
During the practice, Jen balances herself by holding onto to parallel bars, explains Cheryl Angelelli, a spokeswoman for the institute.
"Her goal on her wedding day is to walk with her dad holding her on one side and her brother on the other," she said. "She's a very very determined young woman. She has the best attendance out of any client in our program. She's very committed."
"Once I want to achieve something, I always give it 100%," Jen says. "I was like that before the injuries."
She has always been organized, too, and says she is nearly all ready for the wedding. Her dress is strapless and A-line. "When I walk, you can't see my braces under my dress," she explains. "I have everything booked, bought--I just need to get a pair of shoes."