Victoria Arlen accomplished the impossible, and now she's Dancing.
Arlen, 22, is an ESPN contributor and former American paralympian swimmer competing in season 25 of Dancing With the Stars. At the age of 11 she developed two rare conditions, transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, that left her unable to speak, eat and move. The incredibly rare situation caused her to slip into a vegetative state. Doctors said recovery was unlikely and she spent four years aware of what was going on, but unable to move or communicate. Now she's in the ballroom.
"She has such an incredible story and I can't wait to continue to write her story and contribute to an incredible life already and hopefully, like I said, hopefully she'll make life-long memories on the show and I'll help her learn how to dance," her pro partner Val Chmerkovskiy told E! News after the DWTS cast was announced.
"It's definitely challenging…It's a little easier to learn to walk than ballroom dancing," Arlen said. "I'm feeling good. It's definitely a shocker to the body, but I can't feel my legs. I can say that they're sore, but I don't really know if they're sore."
This presents a challenge for Chmerkovskiy who said working with Arlen is "definitely a very different experience."
"I have to be a better teacher, a smarter choreographer, her and I have to really have to work together so I could get an idea of how to translate my methods into this unique situation. She can't feel her legs or her feet and dance has a little bit of both those things," he said.
Arlen is doing Dancing With the Stars not just for the trophy, but for people other than herself.
"I've had my whole world ripped away from me, but I've gotten it back and I've picked up the pieces. I've stood amongst the rubble, and I think there's a lot of people going through different things where you feel like your whole world's imploded and you feel like you lost it all," she told us. "Whether it's physical, emotional, whatever you're going through, and then even now with these disasters and stuff…I got my life back for a reason, I got my voice back for a reason. I shouldn't be here by medical standards. If anything, if I can be that beacon of hope for people that need it the most through dancing and through our storytelling then I've done my job."
Dancing With the Stars returns Monday, Sept. 18 on ABC.