In a freak accident in summer 2014, a 19-year-old Harrisburg, Arkansas, girl became paralyzed after a golf club struck her and tore through her body. Now, five months later, the young woman is walking again and sharing her story, My Fox Atlanta reported.
Natalie Jo Eaton was two days into her freshman year at Arkansas State University when she attended a fraternity’s back-to-school cookout on Aug. 19. She posed for a photo and moments later was on the ground, unable to speak or move.
"It's just crazy. The craziest story. I tell people and they're like, ‘I don't even know if I should believe you,’” Eaton told My Fox Atlanta. “I wish I could make this up. It's very, very odd."
The photo shows the legs of a young man twisted in a golf swing. A friend had tossed him a football and he swung at it, using his putter as a baseball bat. The metal shaft snapped and flew 30 feet, tearing into Eaton’s neck and paralyzing her.
"I thought someone had hit me in the head with a baseball bat,” Eaton told the news channel. "I turned my neck just to see what was, what was getting my shirt wet. And as I looked, the metal in the back scraped the concrete, and that's when I knew there was something in my neck."
Fortunately, Eaton’s older brother— who had graduated from medical school— was by her side quickly and helped stabilize her. She was airlifted to a Memphis hospital for emergency surgery, and three weeks later was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, one of the top rehabilitation hospitals for spinal cord and brain injuries.
Thanks to months of intense physical and occupational therapy, Eaton is recovering. Her spinal cord was damaged but not severed, so she has a high chance of walking again without assistance. For now, she is using a therapist and canes.
Eaton has Brown Sequard syndrome, common for those with spinal cord injury involving a puncture wound to the neck. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the condition results in weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, and loss of sensation on the opposite side.
By the end of January, Eaton plans to leave Shepherd Center’s outpatient program. She hopes to start her freshman year at Arkansas State again in August.
"Although it is very, very, very hard to not be angry,” she told My Fox Atlanta. “It's a daily battle. But I think once you decide to see the glass half full, not half empty, you just go from there."