Woman who was told she would never walk overjoyed as she dances at her own wedding

The congregation was in tears as beaming bride Natalie Nowak carefully got out of her wheelchair, linked arms with her proud dad and walked, step by step, down the aisle.

Natalie, who was born with cerebral palsy, thought she would not live to see the day.

Doctors had told her parents she would never talk let alone walk or lead a normal life.

But as the remarkable 32-year-old joined her groom Andy at the altar, she proved, yet again, she really had defied all the odds.

Previously, he had only seen her walk a few steps and in his emotional wedding speech Andy, 32, said: “Angels have wings, but my angel has wheels.”

Incredibly, less than a year after spinal surgery, she managed to stand throughout the whole of their first dance, to Celine Dion’s Because You Loved Me, before partying on the dancefloor in her wheelchair until the early hours.

Natalie and Olly Murs


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Natalie aged two


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And Andy is not the only person to be amazed by gritty, determined Natalie, who has a master’s degree and landed her dream job. During her inspiring life she has befriended Olly Murs and even climbed to the top of London’s O2 dome with the singer.

Olly, 38, told the Sunday Mirror: “She invited me to join her and I am so glad we got to do this together. I was so proud of her and her attitude to life.

“Natalie is such a remarkable woman who achieves so much – nothing is a problem to her, she just gets on with things.”

Natalie says: “I just want to inspire anyone else out there to never, ever give up – the love and support I’ve been given over the years, it’s priceless.”

The couple tied the knot last month at St John’s Church in Ainsdale, Southport, Merseyside, in front of more than 100 family and close friends, including the nurses, hospital staff and therapists who have supported Natalie.

Recalling her daughter’s big day, mum Sally Preston says: “Natalie had only ever managed a few short steps since Andy had known her – for her to walk the full length of the church on the biggest day of her life, well, it was simply perfect.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the church, and the look on Andy’s face was simply priceless.” Natalie, who works at the BBC, says: “Andy is the kindest, most thoughtful person I could ever hope to meet, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him on our many adventures.

Mum and dad Sally and Lawrence

“I’ve had such an amazing life and love telling people my story, hoping to inspire others to live life to the full.

“I now have my dream job, a lovely home, and I’m married to the man of my dreams.”

But when Natalie was born, Sally, 65, and Natalie’s dad Lawrence, a retired company director, 71, were told by doctors that such a life would never be possible.

After taking nearly a year to get a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, former nursery nurse Sally was told by a paediatrician consultant that she “would never be able to enjoy her life”.

Natalie with mum Sally as a child

Sally says: “I was told bluntly, ‘Take her home, make her comfortable and try for more babies’. I’d spent my whole life caring for babies, so when Natalie was born, I knew something wasn’t right – despite being told by the doctors she ‘seemed fine’.”

On being told the diagnosis, after seeing a specialist physiotherapist, Sally and Lawrence say they were in complete shock.

Sally says: “We were ushered into a separate room with a consultant paediatrician who was really quite brutal with her prognosis – she told us Natalie would never walk, talk or sit up. Being told our daughter’s life was over before it had begun was simply horrific – and we knew they were wrong.”

Sally and Lawrence refused to give up on Natalie, even when they were told the devastating news that their daughter could be dead by the age of 30 without corrective surgery that could leave her paralysed.

With no hospital support, Sally tried doing physiotherapy on her daughter and prayed for a breakthrough.

Then, two years later, she came across Brainwave, a charity which helps children and their families with neurological disorders.

Sally says: “Their approach was that most of us only use around 10% of our brains, so if one part of a child’s brain isn’t functioning we need to somehow fire up the bits that aren’t being used to take over. ” Getting Natalie to repeat and practice basic tasks such as picking up shapes over and over, as well as exercises, had a remarkable effect.

Within months the tot started crawling and, before she was even three years old, took her first step.

Soon she started saying words and, before long, she was admitted to her local mainstream primary school.

Sally says: “Natalie wouldn’t give up and could sense how we believed she could live a full and happy life.”

It is also through Brainwave that Natalie was able to meet her favorite pop star, Heart Skips A Beat hitmaker and X Factor runner-up Olly, who is a patron of the charity.

After attending several of his gigs, Natalie asked Olly to help her raise £30,000 for the charity on her 30th birthday by going over the roof of The O2 Arena.

Despite building in strength and confidence every day, life has been far from plain sailing for Natalie.

After leaving school with nine GCSEs, she developed a curve of her spine and had to undergo major surgery – which involved fusing her spine and inserting supportive rods either side of her vertebrae. He helped her “grow” six inches and, with a new lease of life, Natalie completed a degree in animation at the University of Central Lancashire. But then, at 25, one of the rods holding up her spine snapped, meaning she had to be rushed to Salford Royal Hospital for a repeat operation.

Sally says: “Not once did she moan, or feel sorry for herself. She knew how lucky she was, what amazing opportunities she had and how much she had to live for. Lawrence and I literally couldn’t have been prouder.”

Unstoppable Natalie went on to complete her master’s degree before landing her dream job at the BBC in Salford, where she works on contracts and social media.

Then, in 2018, Natalie gave her proud parents the news they had been waiting for.

She had met her boyfriend, office administrator Andy Nowak, on an online dating app and wanted them to meet him for the first time. Sally remembers hearing the news: “I turned to Lawrence with the biggest ever grin on my face, and when we met we couldn’t have been happier.

“They’re simply smitten with each other and, like us, Andy doesn’t see any of Natalie’s disabilities or her wheelchair – just the amazing young woman she is.”

Natalie is all smiles on the O2 dome with Olly


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The couple moved into a specially adapted bungalow last summer and in November got engaged, with Sally and Lawrence instantly giving their blessing. Natalie has everything to thank her parents for. She says: “When I was growing up, my parents never told me I was different or disabled.

“They always brought me up to believe in myself, that I could do anything.

“It might take a bit longer than it would for other people, but never give up.”

Andy says of his new wife: “Natalie love for life and positivity is contagious – I have to pinch myself that she’s now my wife. It feels like I’ve won the lottery!”

For more on Brainwave or to make a donation to support Natalie and others like her, visit brainwave.org.uk


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