Watch the moment the 23-year-old regains her mobility in the video below.
Video credit: Daily Mail
A paramedic, 23, suffered a stroke after a neck crack ruptured a vertebral artery in her spine, leaving her partially paralyzed.
Natalie Kunicki, who lives in Harrow, London, was enjoying a night out with her friend on March 4 when the terrible incident happened.
The young paramedic, who works with London Ambulance Service (LAS), was watching movies in bed when she heard a loud ‘crack’ upon stretching her neck.Natalie didn’t pay attention to it and got asleep in a few minutes.
But she woke up just after 15 minutes to realize she couldn’t move her left leg.She tried to stand up and walk but fell down as soon as she left the bed.
Natalie was then taken to hospital where a CT scan revealed she had suffered a stroke. Doctors later told her that the neck crack caused her vertebral artery in the neck to burst, creating a blood clot in her brain which eventually led to the stroke. The woman was discharged from the hospital on March 28 after she regained some movement in her hand, arm, and leg by doing regular exercises.
She is now sharing her story to warn others about the risk of cracking joints.
“People need to know that even if you’re young, something this simple can cause a stroke,” Natalie, who moved from Canberra, Australia, to join the LAS in December 2017, said.
“I wasn’t even trying to crack my neck. I just moved and it happened. I’m a paramedic and I didn’t ring 999 for 10 minutes because I thought it was too unlikely it would be a stroke when I should have known much better.
“Every minute more of your brain cells are dying, so don’t ever discount a stroke just because someone is young.
“People need to be more mindful when doing any chiropractic exercises or strenuous gym weights. I was in bed watching stuff with a friend when it happened.
“I stretched my neck and I could just hear this ‘crack, crack, crack’. My friend asked ‘was that your neck?’ but all my joints crack quite a bit so I didn’t think anything of it. I just laughed.
“I fell asleep and when I woke up about 15 minutes later. I wanted to go to the bathroom but I could feel this leg in the bed and I was asking my friend if he could move his leg.
“He told me it was my leg but I was a bit tipsy so I wasn’t taking anything seriously and just thought ‘that’s a bit weird’. I got up and tried to walk to the bathroom and I was swaying everywhere. I looked down and realized I wasn’t moving my left leg at all – then I fell to the floor.”
She continued: “When the consultant told me I’d had a stroke I was in shock.
“The doctors told me later that just that stretching of my neck had caused my vertebral artery to rupture. It was just spontaneous and there’s a one in a million chance of it happening.
“I don’t smoke, I don’t really drink, I don’t have any family history of strokes so it’s quite strange it happened to me when I was just moving in bed.
“I was in shock for about three days in ICU. I was a bit of a wet blanket. I didn’t really say much and I wasn’t engaging with anyone. I had no sense of humor.
“I was just completely shut off, trying to compute what had happened. People said I was a bit like a robot and didn’t show much emotion.
“But a couple of my friends from the ambulance service told me, ‘You have a week from the day of your stroke to snap out of this or we will snap you out of it.’
“I was able to have my little pity party for a week but that’s it. They told me, ‘What’s done is done now – just work and do all the exercises.’
“They were fantastic and they would come in and do all the exercises with me. I think if I didn’t have them I would have been in my pity party quite a bit longer but instead I smashed through all the therapy goals.
“I just love my job and I want to get back to it. I’m so used to being busy and now I feel like I’m climbing the walls a bit. I definitely want to get back to work as soon as I can.”
After getting transferred to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, the paramedic underwent a three-hour surgery in which her burst artery was discovered.
Natalie said: “I expected to wake up from this miracle surgery and everything would be fixed but my mobility was worse and they couldn’t clear the clot.
“At the start I couldn’t move my thumb and forefinger. I could kind of move my wrist up and down. I couldn’t lift my arm. I could bend my left leg but I couldn’t wiggle my toes.
“The doctors would do tests – I had to close my eyes and they would touch my left side but I couldn’t tell where they were touching. It was like when you have really bad sunburn and your skin is sizzling.”
Natalie has now regained much of her mobility and her clot will dissolve soon. The woman is raising awareness about how even young people may suffer strokes.
She said: “I have been called out to so many people having strokes and they’re always in their 70’s or 80’s. I have never been to a young person having a stroke. Mine was one in a million but a ruptured vertebral artery is actually quite a common cause of strokes in young people.
“They will be in the gym or doing something quite physical and it happens. Strokes are also quite common in kids. It was a shock for me. I thought as a professional I would have an idea but even I didn’t know.”
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