A California high school junior has seemingly done the impossible, achieving a perfect score on the ACT college entrance exam despite a freak accident that left him paralyzed a year before.
“My brain was still all there and that was something I was still able to control and excel at,” said 16-year-old Austin Brotman, a junior at the JSerra Catholic School in San Juan.
Of the 2,090,342 students who took the test in 2016, only .1 percent got all the questions right, a spokesperson from The ACT Test told InsideEdition.com.
Brotman told InsideEdition.com that after he was confined in a wheelchair and lost strength and most ability in his arms and his hands, he found different ways to keep doing the things he had enjoyed before.
He learned to drive in an adapted car, and took up a position as the coach’s assistant when he couldn’t be a part of his school’s water polo team anymore.
But, Brotman said his most important tools were the ones that helped him keep up his school work.
“Everything was changing so quickly and I didn’t know what to make of it,” he explained. “School had always been really important to me, I had always been a straight-A student so [studying] gave me something to focus on and work towards.”
And, it’s clear all his hard work, including learning to use software to transcribe his speech into words and learning how to hold a pen again, paid off when he scored a perfect 36 on his ACT score in February — just a year-and-a-half after his life-changing accident.
“I’m pretty happy about it, it was really cool to get that back,” he explained. “It was validating to know that the work paid off.”
Brotman said he’s also looking forward to taking three AP exams in a few weeks: “I’m feeling pretty confident about those.”
The teen was paralyzed from the chest down during a family vacation in the summer between his freshman and sophomore year when he decided to dive from a boat during a sailing trip.
Although he said the depth finder reported that the waters were 9 feet deep, it was much shallower than he thought.
“Initially, I didn’t quite realize what happened,” he explained. “It was like a numbness and a tingling."
Despite being a skilled swimmer, Brotman couldn’t move his arms to bring himself to the surface, and eventually floated to the top of the water, face down.
“To watch your strong, athletic teenage son not be able to roll over is painful,” his mom Shelley Brotman said.
“I thought I wasn’t making it off the beach. I thought that was it," her son added.
After being brought ashore, Brotman was eventually airlifted to a hospital in Tampa, where it was discovered he had an injury in the C6 level of his spinal cord.
“I don’t think it quite registered right away. To me the only thing I was worried about was getting back to what seemed normal to me,” he explained. “I was lucky enough I actually got a lot of help from my rehab hospital.”
Inspired by his journey with paralysis and the technological help he received from the Craig Hospital in Denver, Colo., where he goes twice a year to receive rehabilitation and checkups, Brotman founded the SCI Scholars Fund through the hospital to help other students go back to school with the technology they need to excel after traumatic spinal cord injuries.
“There’s a lot of technology out there and it’s really great but it does cost money,” Shelley Brotman told InsideEdition.com. “The idea that you can contribute a couple hundred dollars and get people back into school is a big deal for those people.”
To donate to the SCI Scholar’s Fund, visit their website.