Future Lawyer Vows To Dance Again

By Lauren Glenn
The Ledger

TAMPA -- She intends to dance again, even if that means rolling over people's toes on the dance floor.

LiRee Brantley's friends say her wheelchair doesn't matter. They will take her to dance clubs, spin her around and roll her back and forth to the music.

She can picture it, and says she does not care if people stare.

"Let 'em stare," she said. "I'll tell them to take a picture, it'll last longer."

A lifelong resident of Dundee, Brantley, 19, graduated from Haines City High School last May. In September she started classes at Polk Community College.

She planned to transfer to Florida State University or the University of South Florida and eventually attend law school.

But two months ago, a wet road and a telephone pole disrupted those plans.

She has not walked since.


On Nov. 16, Brantley was driving down Country Club Road, on her way to class, when her car began to hydroplane.

She lost control, crashed into a mailbox and then a telephone pole.

She remembers how the car began to slide, and she thought, "Don't hit the brakes, don't hit the brakes."

After that, all she remembers is tapping her fingernails against the windshield, hoping someone would hear.

When a man who lived nearby came to the car, she said, "Can you help me out of the car, please? I can't move my legs."

But he was too afraid to move her.

A helicopter took her to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where she remained for three weeks before transferring to Tampa General Hospital's Rehabilitation Center. Two of her vertebrae were crushed. Doctors say she will never walk again. Others tell her hope remains.

Her mother chooses to believe she will walk, not because of medical science, but because of God.

"I believe she will," Teri Brantley said, walking down a long, gray hallway toward the McDonald's restaurant in Tampa General. "It's a faith thing."


To accommodate a wheelchair, the Brantley home requires some renovations, prompting a family request for assistance through The Ledger's Newspaper with a Heart program.

With household income affected by their daughter's accident and recovery, the Brantleys turned to the Heart program for a wheelchair ramp and vinyl flooring.

Now in its 36th year, the Heart program is for area residents who are in financial distress because of situations beyond their control.

Donations this year have climbed to $127,893.

The Brantley family formed a committee to oversee donations of lumber, building materials and labor. It has organized fundraisers and set up a trust fund.

Its efforts have paid off.