'Didn't know how I was going to be normal.' NC teen grateful for life 3 years after paralyzing crash

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Thursday, December 15, 2022
Johnston County teen grateful for life 3 years after paralyzing crash
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Ask anyone in the Clifton family and they will tell you how much their life changed in January 2020 when teenage son Nate had a terrible car accident.

Ask anyone in the Clifton family and they will tell you how much their life changed on January 2, 2020 when teenage son Nate was involved in a terrible car accident.

"I didn't know how I was going to be normal," recalled Nate Clifton in an interview with ABC11. "You know, just living a normal day-to-day life. But three years after you start to figure out you can do what you want to do and it won't set you back too much."

The crash left Nate paralyzed. He's been using a wheelchair to get around. Although he doesn't let it affect his mobility too much.

"I think struggle helps you form what you're going to be as an adult," he said. "If you go through a hard time, big or small, you can relate a lot more than someone who hasn't gone through anything."

WATCH: Paralyzed Johnston County teen throws out first pitch at high school game

His accident most certainly changed the entire outlook of the Clifton family.

"One thing people always tell us about Nate, his smile never goes away," said his mother, Susan. "Every time you see him he's always smiling. We have nothing to not be smiling about."

His older sister, Samantha, was right by his side throughout the entire process -- helping take food to WakeMed Raleigh where he was recovering, and handling familial responsibilities while her parents were at her brother's side.

"He's tremendous. It's a blessing to have him as a brother," Samantha said.

In the past nearly three years Nate has kept a positive attitude. Family pictures shared with ABC11 show the family on vacations and enjoying life.

"Not only did Nate have a traumatic experience which affected all of this. He was given back to us instead of taken away," said his father Leon Clifton.

RELATED: Crash in Johnston County leaves student-athlete paralyzed

The family believes this unfortunate accident has brought the entire family closer together.

Deondra Frazier, who has been Nate's girlfriend for the past three years, credits the accident to strengthening the love they have for each other.

"A lot of people get angry, sad, depressed because they don't have the support system that you do," she told Nate during the interview. "And I'm glad that you stayed positive and happy through everything we went through."

"Well I want to thank you for believing in me when I didn't believe in myself. Because you always believed in me since day one. You believed in me when I didn't think there was any hope," replied Nate. "But you did."

Nate Clifton plans to return to school to study cybersecurity.