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Chris Norton suffered a severe spinal cord injury in 2010. Closing one of his recent speeches, he stood to help emphasize his message.
Aaron Young/The Register

DES MOINES — Chris Norton’s long lifetime walk began in earnest on Oct. 16, 2010 — seven years ago Monday.

He lay face down on the Luther College football field; his neck broken from a hard hit while covering a kickoff.

Doctors gave him a 3% chance of ever having feeling or movement below the neck. The long odds terrified the then-18-year-old.

“I was scared,” Norton, a rural Altoona native, said. “In those early days, I wondered what kind of life I would have.”

What he has learned since that fateful day is that his catastrophic injury might be more than simply an obstacle for him to overcome. It might be a catalyst for inspiration as well.

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Within a few days of his injury, Norton discovered he could twitch one of his shoulders. After a year, he could stand with assistance.

His sister, Alex Norton McManus, a registered nurse, moved to Decorah to help him recover and shuttle him to therapy at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

After five years, with the assistance of his fiancée, Emily Summers, he walked across the stage to receive his diploma from Luther.

The crowd roared. The video was viewed more than 300 million times.

Norton received more than 10,000 messages from all over the world.

“There were people fighting cancer, depression, anxiety and all kinds of pain who saw that video and said they weren’t going to give up,” Norton said.

He founded the SCI CAN Foundation, which raises money to buy equipment for hospitals and rehabilitation centers…