devastating accident seven years ago left him with the inability to walk or take part in most activities. But he didn't let this hold him back from carrying out a beautiful and memorable proposal.
It didn't take Josh Smith long to realize that his girlfriend, Grace Thompson,was the one. So when he decided to pop the big question, he wanted to do it the traditional way- by bending the knew. However, there was one obstacle- Smith is a quadriplegic. A devastating accident seven years ago left him with the inability to walk or take part in most activities. But he didn't let this hold him back from carrying out a beautiful and memorable proposal. Thanks to an exoskeleton suit, the groom-to-be went down on one knee to ask Grace to marry him and in doing so surprised his friends and family as well.
"I had this huge idea, and I didn't know if it was even possible because I don't think I've ever seen anybody do it before," said Smith according to Good Morning America. "So, I reached out to my therapists and told them I wanted to try to get down on one knee to propose, and I was hoping that we could use the exoskeleton to help with that." After getting the go-ahead from them, he began working on this plan knowing that it wouldn't be an easy journey just like the last few years of his life. Recalling the terrible accident that changed his life, Smith said that he was visiting a few of his friends in Virginia Beach back in 2014 when he dove into a wave headfirst and slammed into a sandbar.
The impact left him instantly paralyzed from below his chest. "I was floating there face down and couldn't move anything, but my eyes were open. It took me a little bit to realize that I couldn't move at all and then once I came to, I thought I was going to drown there," he shared. "It was really scary. Luckily, my friends dragged me out onto the beach and waited for the paramedics to get there." The weeks following this were quite difficult for Smith who spent four months at a spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation center named Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
Smith was just 23 when he realized he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. At the rehabilitation, he worked with therapists who helped him get used to life in a wheelchair. Although he returned to Richmond, Virginia, his hometown everything had changed in his life. "Life as Josh knew it had changed in one horrific instant," recalled his mother Caroline. "With his level of injury, living independently is very hard to achieve, but we worked together as a team to help him reach that goal." But Smith's rigorous determination helped him make strides within a year's time.
Not only did he get back to working full-time, but also participated in adaptive sports. He began driving an accessible van and even invented products and tools which helped people with limited motor function. Although things were looking up, Smith didn't have the same confidence that he did before in the area of dating. But this changed in February 2020, when he met Grace on a dating app. The two connected almost instantly as they had lost of things in common. "The pandemic played a huge role in how serious we became because we went on the perfect amount of dates to where we both felt safe and comfortable not being in public anymore," said 26-year-old Thompson.
"We were pretty lucky in the timing of it all. It was a lot of game nights with another couple that we got close with during quarantine. We liked to cook dinners together and play games, and it was kind of nice to because, you know, we were still getting to know each other. We had a lot of great conversations and went out to parks a lot. He's the only guy I've ever dated who I really work out with -- which most people would be surprised at because he's in a wheelchair -- but he's more active than most people I know," she added. After a relationship of more than a year, Smith planned the proposal. He sent Grace to get a manicure with her best friend and made all the arrangements on the deck in her absence.
When she arrived, their family and friends waited inside while Smith went down on one knee on the deck. As her blindfold was removed, Grace was left shocked. "I just kind of froze, staring at him and I felt like I couldn't move. Then my family and his family started pouring out and I was like, 'Oh! It was very overwhelming but in a good way," she said. "It was really cool that he was able to get on one knee. But to see him stand up -- I've never seen him stand before, so that was really great and it was really strange to, like, have him hug me standing up! I wish we could do that more!"
Grace also noted that "There really is someone out there for everybody. And I think on my end of things, and from what I've learned, is to just try to be more patient and learn how and when to help him and know when he wants to do things on his own." The pair plans to get married next year in October. "Everyone deserves love. Sometimes you don't know how it will come but it will always come when you're least expecting it," said Smith.