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04/11/2014

Woman finds love after life-changing crash

When a car crash left Paige Owens paralyzed at age 15, she never thought love — much less marriage — would be in her future.

"Who would want to be with me? Somebody in a wheelchair?" asked Owens, now 22.

She was wrong.

Via social media, Owens reconnected with a high school classmate who had never forgotten about her.

"I was attracted to her from the moment I saw her," said her fiancé, Bryan Bartz. "It's kind of like one of those destiny things, as much as people don't believe in destiny or in soul mates or anything like that."

It was a fateful decision in August 2007 that left Owens confined to a wheelchair.

The Keller High School student had lied to her parents, telling them she was going to the movies. The boys she was with had bought beer from a store. They drove out to a corn field in Wise County. Owens said she wasn't drinking that night, but her friends were.

Hours later, an alcohol-related crash in rural Wise County killed her childhood best friend, the teenage driver, and another boy.

Paige Owens and Bryan Bartz are engaged to be married
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"I remember waking up on-and-off when the man found us that lives there," Owens said. "I wasn't thinking I was paralyzed; I couldn't feel anything. Everything was tingling. I remember asking one of the CareFlite nurses if I was going to die, and she told me she didn't know."

Owens doesn't remember anything about the two weeks that followed. Doctors performed surgery to stabilize her neck.

"When I first got hurt, I couldn't move anything at all," she said. "I had to ask people to scratch my nose, and so when I was in rehab and I was able to move my arms and actually scratch my nose, I actually cried."

She spent months in the hospital. She never returned to high school.

"Imagine waking up one day and you can't do pretty much anything by yourself," Owens said. "It was really hard. I didn't go to prom. I didn't get to do any of that kind of stuff that teenagers are experiencing."

In high school, Bartz had dated one of Owens' friends. They were in the same algebra class, but she never really paid attention to him.

After the accident, Bartz said it was if Owens fell off the face of the earth.

Then, about two years ago, she got a Facebook friend request from Bartz.

Bartz spent months wooing her via text, phone calls, e-mails and social media.

"I already knew it was not going to be some easy task to break that threshold and become her boyfriend," he said. "She made that apparent after four days. She's like, 'I'm not really looking for a relationship.'''

He had to prove to her that he could be trusted, and that he would accept her as she is now. Finally, she asked him if he wanted to meet her at the State Fair.

"I was hoping he would say 'no,'" Owens said. "I was scared ... I just have this thing about people who haven't seen me since I got hurt. It's kind of weird for them to see now."

Bartz jumped at the chance.

"It was kind of like meeting a familiar face for the first time," Bartz said. "It just kind of felt right. I walked up to her, and I took hold of that wheelchair, and I pushed her the entire day, and she was just kind of like shocked that I was so accepting because that's what she wanted to see. She wanted to see if I was accepting of it or not. I could tell her that I'm accepting all I want, but unless she sees it person-to-person, she's not going to believe me."

At the end of the day, Bartz asked her to be his girlfriend. Owens said "yes."

Months later, he moved in with her and her father in Oklahoma. He helps take care of her.

The couple's scariest moment came in July 2012. when Owens began having seizures.

"I walked in, and there she is convulsing," Bartz said. "The most frightening image in the world seeing someone you love convulse. I was scared to death."

That same day, he asked Owens' father if he could marry her. She spent two weeks in a coma. To this day, doctors don't really know what caused it.

They returned to the State Fair last year, where he proposed to her. She accepted.

"He's the best thing ever — him and my family," Owens said. "I don't know what I would do without them."

Then came a moment Paige Owens thought would never happen — selecting her wedding dress.

She came to Terry Costa bridal shop with her mother, sisters and bridesmaids. The general consensus was that any dress had to have lots of sparkles.

"This is her fairy tale, so it has to be just right," said her sister, Stephanie Owens. "She's been planning this wedding since she was like two."

It only took trying on a few before Owens found the perfect one. They all applauded when she found it; Owens beamed.

The couple will be married next June. They're hoping a child will soon follow.

"I've talked to doctors, and the lady that I talked to doesn't see any reason why I can't," Owens said. "I want a girl. I told him if we had a girl, then I would be happy with just one."

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