PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Two and a half years ago, a young woman was paralyzed after being struck by a stray bullet while playing kickball with friends at a Fishtown park in Philadelphia.
Now, she's sharing her story of hope despite a devastating injury.
"I keep thinking that I'm going to wake up from a really bad nightmare," Amanda Parezo said after the shooting.
Parezo was struck by a stray bullet in her lower back, leaving her paralyzed from her waist down.
"The third or fourth shot I felt myself fall backwards," Parezo said.
More than two and a half years later, Parezo invited CBS Philadelphia into her home to talk about what she's been through and how she's doing.
"It's been a rollercoaster," Parezo said.
Parezo said even after five major surgeries, months of rehab and weekly physical therapy, she'll likely never be able to stand or walk again and now uses a wheelchair full time. She also endures chronic pain, which is common after spinal cord injuries.
"I can't move my legs. I can't move my entire lower half of my body, but I do have pain. I can feel pain somehow. I feel severe nerve pain all the time from my hips to what I think are my toes in my mind," Parezo said.
Yet, despite her diagnosis, Parezo is proving everyone wrong.
"If you told me two years ago that I could living by myself, traveling internationally, I would have never believed you," Parezo said.
Over the last year, she moved into her new Old City condo, traveled to Mexico to celebrate her birthday and is even taking up acting as a hobby.
"Anytime I can show myself that a person with a physical disability can be on a commercial or a television show and it not be about the disability," Parezo said.
Parezo's also back to work full-time teaching as a doctor in occupational therapy at Jefferson Health — the same hospital where she worked before and also where she was treated — something she admits is both ironic and eye-opening.
"I thought I was looking at accessibility in the community with an occupational therapy lens, however, I wasn't looking at it nearly as close as somebody who actually has to live it does," Parezo said.
Parezo credits her loved ones, friends, and her cat, Franklin, for getting her through some of her toughest moments. She's also finding purpose in advocating for gun violence victims and their families.
"The impact of gun violence is real. Living with a disability is not easy," Parezo said.
And while the journey ahead will likely still hold many challenges, Parezo said she's focused not on what she's lost, but the strength she's gained.
"I appreciate life a lot more," Parezo said.
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