Chinese Gymnast Leaves Hospital

Citing Christopher Reeve as an inspiration, a 17-year-old Chinese gymnast who broke her neck at last summer's Goodwill Games was discharged from a Manhattan hospital Friday, vowing to someday walk again.

"I shall never give in," said Sang Lan as she left the Mount Sinai-New York University Medical Center. Her rehabilitation will continue while she lives at a friend's Manhattan apartment.

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"Christopher Reeve said to me that one day we would all stand up and walk again," she said. "I believe this day will come."

Sang smiled when she recalled Celine Dion, one of a host of celebrities who visited her during her 13-week hospital stay. The pop diva sang for her and offered prayers of encouragement. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio was another special visitor.

"I feel sad that I'm paralyzed and can't take care of myself like normal people," Sang said. "But I don't want to lose the confidence that I'll stand up again."

Dr. Kristjan Ragnarsson, an expert on spinal cord injuries who has worked closely with the teen-ager, said the gymnast has made excellent progress with increased muscle strength at her shoulders, elbows and wrists.

In a moving farewell at the hospital, Sang raised her arms and waved goodbye with obvious difficulty. Her immediate plans are to continue rehabilitation and learn English. She spoke Friday through an interpreter.

Sang, a member of the Chinese National Gymnastics Team, was injured in a fall during a practice vault on July 21 during the Goodwill Games.

Sang Lan
Doctors say gymnast Sang Lan is making impressive progress. (AP)

With the help of her doctors, she is re-learning life's everyday routines. Simple acts like writing her name, feeding herself and brushing her teeth are all part of the process.

"I want to say thank you to Dr. Ragnarsson and Mount Sinai," Sang said. "They have given me the best therapies and edical care. They have even trained my mother so that she is able to take care of me at home."

Dr. Ragnarsson called Sang "an inspiration for other patients and for the staff that worked with her." He said she had not missed a day of her strenuous rehabilitation program and remained highly motivated.

Sang's mother will remain with her in New York while her father returns home to China to work.

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