BOGALUSA, LA (WAFB) - Next time you open your mouth to complain or think about how tough your life is, remember the story of Katie Hughes. It's a story of survival, determination and deep faith. It's also a story that easily could have ended much differently.
At 29-years-old, Hughes has already beaten the odds at least three times in her life. She's an accomplished personal trainer and physical therapist, despite being confined to a wheelchair.
One afternoon in October 2011, Hughes was driving on an unfamiliar road when she missed a stop sign and slammed into a truck.
"I went through the windshield and landed in a ditch area," she said. "That might have been okay, but then my car followed me and landed on top of me."
Katie was trapped for 33 agonizing minutes. The running engine burned 75 percent of her back and down her left shoulder and arm, straight through her skin and eventually the muscle. She spent three days on a ventilator before coming to.
That's the first time she beat the odds.
"When I woke up, the doctor came in and straight-up said like he had said it a million times before, 'Your spinal cord is severed, and you will never walk again,'" Hughes recalled.
During a nine-hour surgery, doctors realized her spine had not severed. Instead, two vertebrae – the L1 and L2 – shattered, leaving Katie paralyzed, but with a glimmer of hope.
"It's 90 percent mental. You just have to believe in yourself enough to say, 'No, I don't accept this. I'm not gonna remain in the chair, and I see bigger things for my life," Hughes said.
Husband Odie saw bigger things too. A mutual friend had introduced them three years prior – before the accident.
"I don't think there was much of a spark, because she doesn't even remember meeting me," he said with a smirk.
The pair eventually reconnected and got engaged, but there was one catch.
"I told my sister, I said 'I will not get married until I can walk down the aisle, and I won't have it any other way,'" Hughes said.
Katie connected with Mike Barwis, a renowned sports trainer featured in the Discovery Channel TV show "American Muscle." It was Barwis who got her legs to move for the first time.
Hughes has two rods along each side of her spine holding her vertebrae in place. Learning to move with those rods was excruciating, but Katie pushed through the pain during months of training at Barwis' Michigan facility.
However walking in a wedding dress is much different than walking in gym shorts.
"I started off with the walker with my braces without the dress on," Katie remembered. "Then I would start with the dress and then my walker, and then the dress with a cane, then the dress with two people walking by me."
A full summer of practice, enduring days of brutal pain, got Katie to the moment she'd been waiting for. It turned out she had never walked in her actual dress.
"At first my legs got caught up on one another, so that was a challenge. I was nervous the whole way and I was shaking so bad," Katie said of her trip down the aisle flanked by Barwis and her father.
That's the second time she beat the odds.
The video of her incredible wedding walk went viral and made headlines around the world. Her faith and perseverance served as testimony to thousands of people, but there was nothing to prepare Katie for life's next challenge.
"I've kept babies my entire life, and I know how to take care of a baby, but I've never taken care of one from a chair," she said.
Anniston Kathryn came into this world seven months ago. It's a common misconception that paraplegic women cannot have children. Paralysis affects feeling and movement, not the uterus. Katie's pregnancy was considered high-risk, but her experience was like most. The only exception was that she had to go nine months without the medication that eases the nerve pain from her injury.
"It just feels like you're sitting on a stove constantly, and it just burns really bad from all that nerve damage," Hughes recalled.
A team of doctors at Our Lady of the Angels hospital in Bogalusa delivered Anniston naturally over six hours. It's the same hospital that saved Katie's life five years ago, and one of four safety net hospitals in Louisiana now facing closure due to budget problems.
Katie adapts every day to her new role while Anniston learns to grab on to anything and everything, including our camera.
"She's really patient with me," Katie said. "It's like she knows, she can kinda sense what's going on."
From meal time to play time, Hughes has yet to find something she can't do for her child, and that's the message she wants to send.
"So many people they say children deserve a parent that can walk, but there are so many parents that can walk that don't take care of their kid as good as some people do in a wheelchair," she explained.
It's her physical and mental strength helping to raise a baby who will grow up staring into the eyes of the ultimate role model.
"Yes, it is hard, but being a mother is hard. I mean that's all part of it, and it's always going to be challenging no matter what. The good outweighs the bad any day," Hughes said.
Katie and Odie hope to give Anniston a sibling in the near future, and they're also not ruling out a third child.
Follow Katie's story on her Facebook page.