The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

NC woman paralyzed in pool accident before wedding gets rehabilitation, hopes to walk again

  • Print

RALEIGH, N.C. - A North Carolina woman who got married last summer after a poolside accident left her paralyzed isn't walking yet, but she hasn't given up on learning to move on her own again.

Rachelle Friedman Chapman is stronger after training for almost three weeks in October at Project Walk, a spinal cord injury recovery centre in Carlsbad, Calif. And the 26-year-old from Knightdale, near Raleigh, hopes to return for more training that could help her walk for the first time since the accident just weeks before her original wedding date.

"You see people standing up out of their wheelchair, people who are relearning how to walk," Chapman said in a recent phone interview.

It was on May 23, 2010, that Chapman was pushed into a pool by a friend at her bachelorette party in Virginia Beach, Va. She fell into the shallow end and awkwardly hit the cement bottom. The injury to her vertebra left her with no feeling from the chest down and feeling on the inside of her arms but not the outside. Her wedding had been scheduled for a few weeks after the party, but she and her fiance postponed it by more than a year.

She has never revealed the name of the friend, who was a bridesmaid when the wedding was finally held in July 2011. The cruel timing of her injury and her enduring positivity landed her story in newspapers, websites and television reports around the world.

Chapman got one round of rehabilitation therapy after her accident and tried to exercise on her own. Now she works out on a table that her husband, Chris, and his father built for her and does weight-bearing exercises on a home gym.

Her balance is better because her core is stronger, as are her arms.

When Chapman arrived at Project Walk, she was weak, says Kimberly Davis, an instructor there. Her blood pressure was low because her muscles had atrophied and she didn't have the muscle contractions necessary to move the blood, Davis says.

"Mornings would be difficult for her," Davis says. "We wouldn't even be able to get her into a seated position without her passing out."

She also was suffering from bone loss because she's not standing or bearing weight. By the end of her treatment, Chapman was able to move for 30 minutes on a machine similar to an elliptical trainer that takes clients through the walking process while supporting their legs and body with a harness.

She also was able to get upright in a frame that uses hydraulics to move clients to a standing position.

"I was pretty impressed with her progress," Davis says. "She didn't leave here walking, but she increased her strength tremendously."

While she describes Chapman's condition as severe, Davis says it's still possible she will walk again. "With this injury, it's unpredictable," she says.

Chapman, whose California rehab was funded by an organization called Walking With Anthony, hopes to return in 2012. "I want to go back more than anything," she says.

Davis wants her to return as well. "If I could have her back in here tomorrow, I would," she says. "She needs to be back in here as soon as possible. There's really no duplication of the program."

Meanwhile, Chapman is taking care of other business. As promised, the Beatles fan got a tattoo of the peace sign drawn on the back of her neck, at the centre, marking her injury. Underneath is inked, "Let It Be."

It was, she said, the most painful thing she's ever experienced — the fall in the pool didn't hurt.

She also learning to drive again and thinking of trying to find a job or getting a master's degree in a subject such as school counselling. And she's started writing a book.

She and her husband are considering having a child, but she has to get off the blood pressure and pain medications to do that.

"It's not going to be a fun pregnancy," she said. "I'll probably be dizzy and in pain all the time. It will be nine months of sacrifice. ... But we would love to have our own child."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Rinelle Harper and family thank man who found her

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 110621 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 -  Doug Chorney, president Keystone Agricultural Producers flight over South Western Manitoba to check on the condition of farming fields. MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
my2011poy

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Has the throne speech renewed your confidence in the provincial government?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google