Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Broken Neck -- Part 1

This is a story you've all been dying to hear.  Maybe you just didn't know it until now.  It's about my broken neck.

Yes.  Neck.  Like the little girl on Gone With the Wind (died).  Or Christopher Reeves (quadriplegic).
Actually, my accident was within 3 months of Christopher Reeves'.  He was totally my childhood crush, by the way. I mean, hello!  Look at that!  Mmmm.

It was August 8, 1995.  Coolio and TLC topped the charts.  A stamp cost 32 cents.  We hadn't ever heard of an email.  Nobody owned a cell phone.  And I had never kissed a boy.

There was not a cloud in the sky that day.  The temperature was 95 degrees.  We knew it would be one of the last "perfect" days of the year to go swimming in the river so all of the local teens were there -- all 20 of us (I'm from a small town).

"The River" was not the entire river.  It was the specific swimming hole behind my friends' house.  That's where we went.  The boys built a 30 foot tower, a rope swing, zip line, and a bridge from the main side to an island where the "hot sands" warmed us up.  It was the quintessential rural adolescent pass-time.  I feel sorry for all of you who never experienced it.

The water had been exceptionally high and had just washed out most of the bridge that the boys made.  There was a little part left by the island, but the water was almost touching the top.  The water was 4 feet deep on that side.

I was hanging out with my on-and-off other childhood crush on the bridge remnants and he told me that he was going to dive off of the bridge with his hands behind his back.  He did it and made it look so easy.  Being the competitive (and once flirtatious) person that I am, I bantered a little and claimed that I could do it too so I locked my hands behind my back and dove, head first, into the 4-feet deep water.

Next thing I knew, I couldn't move.  I was stuck in the murky water unable to move.  I didn't feel my head hit the sand and gravel bottom but somehow I knew that it had.  But that's all I had time to think because my friend saw my feet surface and knew I wasn't okay so he grabbed my arm and pulled me up so I could breathe.  I didn't even run out of breath under the water.

When I saw him I told him that I couldn't move and he pulled me to the side (island side) where we waited.  Other friends started to surround me.  We were sure that I had just pinched a nerve so I had them wait to call anyone to see if it wore off.

I remember joking and possibly laughing with them as I lay there paralyzed from then neck down.  At one point the current started taking me into the water and they had to pull me back onto the little shore.  I didn't have a lot of feeling in my body.  Zero in my legs, in fact.  But I could tell that my swimming suit was riding up and I had a total wedgie.  One of my friends had to pick it out for me (and that's a true friend).  I could move my arms up (flex my biceps) but not down (triceps).  Finally I told someone to call my mom.  My 8-month-pregnant mom.

She arrived and one of the boys left to go get my dad, who was out working on the farm (remember, no cell phones).  My mom (I believe) was the one to have someone call 911 when she arrived -- about an hour after the accident.

The nearest hospital was 20 miles from "the river" and the crew was on call so it took them a while to get there with the ambulance.  While they were on their way, my friends got a big piece of plywood (aka discarded former bridge wood) and placed me on it.  We said a prayer and they lifted me to walk across the river.  The most shallow part of the river was 5 - 5 1/2 feet at that time and the current was strong.  It was literally a miracle that they were able to walk across without being swept down.  An answered prayer.

By the time the ambulance got there and put me in the stretcher I could wiggle my big toe.  I knew I was going to walk again.  No doubt.

They took me to the hospital where my grandma was frantically waiting.  I had x-rays taken and it was confirmed that C5 & 6 were crushed.  Since that rural hospital was very smalll, they didn't have the equipment or the specialists to treat me.

I was loaded back in the ambulance for another ride.  This time it was an almost 2 hour ride to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.  I cried for the first time during that ride.  And it was because my butt hurt so badly from lying on hard boards for hours without being able to move.  But I could move.  By then I could bend my knees.

I realize this isn't very long but it has taken me a long time to write.  Uh, because of babies and bedtime, not because it's hard to write about.  I will finish it soon.  If you want to me to write about anything specific, let me know now or forever hold your peace (not really.. I'll write about whatever you want, whenever).

Read part 2 here.


  1. So freaking scary! I can't even imagine!

  2. OMG I cannot even imagine!! WOW! Thank GOD, you are ok!! Makes me love you even more!

  3. Yeah, that is so freaking scary. And something that I didn't realize until recently (mostly because I have a close friend who works at Craig Hospital, a spinal cord injury rehab hospital) is that it is possible to not have movement but to have feeling.
    I can't even imagine! I'm so glad you are better!

  4. SCARY!!! It's a miracle you can walk let alone run! Wow

  5. I am certain my parents have some good pics of that bridge . . . would be nice to add them to your history. Your grandkids are going to want to see it :)

  6. Oh my goodness. How scary that must have been.

  7. I heard bits and pieces but never the whole story. So scary and crazy!


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