In August 2014, Natalie was two days into her freshman year at Arkansas State University when she suffered a severe injury in a freak accident at a fraternity’s back-to-school cookout.
While Natalie was posing for a photo with friends, a student behind her hit a football with a golf club, snapping off the handle and sending the shaft flying through the air into the back of her neck.
“The putter went through my C3 and C4 vertebrae,” Natalie recalls. “It partially severed my spinal cord and then went through my jaw.”
Natalie was airlifted to a trauma unit in Memphis, Tennessee, where she underwent emergency surgery. Natalie’s doctors initially thought she would be paralyzed for life, but over the next several weeks, she started showing signs of improvement.
Natalie was then transported to the Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta that specializes in brain and spinal cord injuries. “I remember my therapists saying, ‘You’re going to have to work hard every single day to get something back, but there’s no guarantee for anything,’ ” Natalie says. “They would move my arms around, and my legs for mobility, but it was extremely painful to move my body.”
After months of rigorous physical and occupational therapy, Natalie beat the odds and learned to walk again with the assistance of a cane.
“She’s an amazing individual. She always has been,” Natalie’s mom, Fonda, says. “Watching her come from where she started and being able to get to where she is at today, it takes a strong individual.”
Natalie continues to receive therapy and plans to attend college again in the fall.
To help Natalie get some much-deserved rest and relaxation before starting school, The Doctors surprise her and Fonda with a vacation to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, courtesy of Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort.