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'If anybody could do it, she could'

After doctors told Karly Schweitzer what she would never be able to do, she did it.

By RITA FARLOW, Times Staff Writer
Published December 12, 2007

Karly Schweitzer, 29, of St. Petersburg suffered a devastating head injury, but refused to give up her ambition. Saturday, she will graduate with dual degrees in law and business from Stetson University College of Law.
[Dirk Shadd | Times]
[Scott Keeler | Times (2000)]
Karly Schweitzer poses with her parents, Betsy and Marty, in 2000 when, against the odds, she graduated from Emory University.

Karly Schweitzer has never been one to take no for an answer. - "She just had a mind of her own. If she didn't want to do something, by golly, she didn't do it. She was strong to the verge of stubbornness," said her dad, Largo resident Marty Schweitzer. - So it comes as little surprise to her parents that Karly, 29, will graduate from Stetson University College of Law Saturday with not one, but two degrees.

This, despite the fact that 10 years ago, doctors told Karly she'd have a hard time making it through community college. Law school? Out of the question, they said.

"Every single doctor told me ... it's impossible," Karly said.

As a sophomore at Emory University in Atlanta, Karly suffered severe brain injuries in a car accident that happened on the way to a concert with friends.

When she emerged from a coma nine days after the Nov. 23, 1997, accident, Marty Schweitzer said, "She couldn't walk, she couldn't talk, she couldn't do anything."

But Karly wasn't going to let that stop her. Still in a wheelchair, Karly told her mom, Betsy, she wanted to go back to Emory.

Betsy Schweitzer pointed out to her daughter that she lived on the third floor of a building with no elevators. How would she get upstairs?

"You put me at the bottom of those stairs and you watch," Karly told her.

Her parents relented.

"She's just so darned positive and that's really why, when all of these doctors told us she shouldn't go, why my wife and I decided she could go," Marty Schweitzer said. "If anybody could do it, she could do it."

After months of rehabilitation, Karly returned to Emory the following fall. She worked hard to graduate with the rest of her class.

"If I say I'm going to do something, I can totally do it," said Karly, who lives in St. Petersburg.

Optimism and determination have always been Karly's strengths, said longtime friend Cristy Lafferty, 29.

"All of those qualities about her were just absolutely magnified after the accident," she said.

Lafferty choked up when she recalled the weeks after the accident, the months of grueling therapy, the slow restoration of her childhood friend. "She makes everybody who hasn't had a challenge like that sit up and take notice of what we can accomplish," said Lafferty, of Orlando.

Karly said she draws inspiration from her parents. "They are my idols. My brother Eric, too. I am so in awe of them. I want to be just like them," she said.

Today, Karly carries few visible signs of the accident. When she's tired, her speech becomes a little slurred. Her vision is slightly affected and her memory isn't what it used to be.

The A grades that used to come so easily now require serious studying, Karly said.

On Saturday she'll fulfill a childhood dream, when she receives her juris doctor degree and a master's degree in business administration.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't do something, Karly said.

"You can do absolutely anything you tell yourself you can do," she said. "It's totally self-envisioned."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

[Last modified December 11, 2007, 22:41:51]

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