Last week on “Dancing With the Stars,” ESPN personality and Paralympian swimmer Victoria Arlen wowed the judges in the ballroom with her emotional story coming back from two rare conditions the almost took her life about a decade ago.
Though she survived, she had been trapped in her body for almost four years in a vegetative state, had to learn to walk again years later and still can’t feel her legs. With all this, she doesn’t take her current situation for granted even one bit.
“The fact that I’m dancing period and two years ago, I couldn’t even walk, so I think that’s the shocker here,” she told ABC News before the start of the season. “The fact that I’m also dancing while still not feeling my legs.”
At age 11, the now-22-year-old was diagnosed with transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, two neurological conditions that can cause “paralysis, sensory problems” and even trigger a coma.
Arlen said she doesn’t let the pressure of the competition get to her, she’s just amazed that she “upright” and “figuring it out” on the dance floor.
“Learning to walk was 10 times easier than learning to ballroom dance,” she admitted. “Walking is like ‘Right, left, right, left.’ Ballroom dancing is ‘Right, left, turn, point!’ … my legs are like, ‘I don’t know what we’re doing.'”
She said the challenge comes when she has to make moves, but “you don’t know where your feet are,” because she can’t feel her legs.
Last week, Arlen and her partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, scored a 19, putting them near the top of the leaderboard. “Dancing With the Stars” continued season 25 Monday night on ABC50.