23-Year-Old Paramedic Says She Was Left Paralyzed After Cracking Her Neck While Stretching

Natalie Kunicki, 23, said she suffered a paralyzing stroke.
Natalie Kunicki is now partially paralyzed, she said. GoFundMe

A 23-year-old paramedic was left partially paralyzed after stretching her neck and rupturing a major artery, she said.

Natalie Kunicki works for a London ambulance service and will be in physical rehab for as long as a year, she said. She was watching television in bed after a night out with friends when she stretched her neck and heard a loud crack, she told the Daily Mail.

When she got up 15 minutes later to use the restroom, she collapsed and couldn't move her left leg.

She called paramedics and was rushed to a hospital, where she learned a major artery in her neck had been severed, sending a blood clot to her brain, which triggered a stroke.

She was dumbfounded, she said.

"The doctors told me later that just that stretching of my neck had caused my vertebral artery to rupture," she told the Mail. "It was just spontaneous, and there's a one-in-a-million chance of it happening."

Dr. Michelle Collie, a physical therapy expert in Rhode Island, said she had never heard of such a freak accident. "Usually an exceptional amount of trauma is involved" with rupturing a neck artery, she told InsideEdition.com.

But neck and spine injuries can be quite debilitating, and she urged people to be mindful of the way they sit and stretch.

When stretching the neck, be sure to turn to the left and right, and up and down, she said. Don't rotate your neck in a circle or make jerky motions.

Cracking your own neck is usually OK, she said, but don't let anyone except trained professionals manipulate your neck or spine.

She also advised avoiding long periods of sitting or slouching. "Not moving has very detrimental effects," she said. Remember to hold your chin horizontal to the floor and imagine a piece of string being pulled from the top of your head, lifting your spine into alignment.

Kunicki said she has regained some feeling on her left side but has many hours of therapy in front of her. Doctors are monitoring the clot in her brain, hoping it will dissolve with time. They repaired her damaged artery with a stent.

"I'm determined to get back to work," she said.

Kunicki has the benefit of being young in her favor, Collie said.

"I wouldn't be surprised if in a matter of months, she might be back where she was before," Collie said.

RELATED STORIES 

Paralyzed Childhood Friends Support Each Other Through Fitness

Teen Paralyzed During Lacrosse Game Takes His First Steps

Paralyzed Man Becomes First to Complete Half-Marathon in Exo-Skeleton