California teen has graduation ceremony in Arizona hospital

May 23, 2022, 4:25 AM

(Dignity Health Photo) (Dignity Health Photo) (Dignity Health Photo) (Dignity Health Photo) (Dignity Health Photo) (Dignity Health Photo) (Dignity Health Photo) Dylen Damico-Rager and friends. (Dignity Health Photo)

PHOENIX — A California high school student hospitalized in Phoenix with paralyzing injuries received his diploma on Saturday.

Faculty, friends and family traveled to Barrow Neurological Institute located at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital for Dylen Damico-Rager’s, 18, cap and gown graduation ceremony, Dignity Health said in a press release.

“It’s not that way I planned my graduation but I’m so grateful for their support and the opportunity to wear my cap and gown and receive my diploma,” Damico-Rager said of the faculty and his friends in the release.

The Cypress High School senior was scheduled to graduate on May 25 but suffered a severe spinal cord injury on March 25 after making a shallow dive into a river near Yuma while on vacation, the release said.

Damico-Rager’s mother, Sarah Samayoa, said in the release he lost movement in his arms and legs after the impact of the dive, was carried in the current and almost drowned.

“Thankfully, his friends were able to find him and start CPR. Paramedics on scene resuscitated him,” Samayoa said.

He underwent a cervical spinal fusion surgery to have his spine fused, and weeks later, is undergoing intensive, physical, occupational and speech therapy, the release said.

His high school guidance counselor worked with hospital staff to plan the ceremony at the hospital, which featured an official diploma presentation, turning of the tassel and speakers, including Damico-Rager, the high school principal and his medical team.

“Dylen is the epitome of a Cypress High School Centurion … We know that he has a strong resilience to him and look forward to his recovery,” Kevin Hodgson, principal of the school, said in the release.

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California teen has graduation ceremony in Arizona hospital