There’s no place like home, something Jaime Carnucci learned the hard way. After suffering a spinal cord injury in August that paralyzed her left side, she returned home walking last week after 70 days of surgeries and rehabilitation.
“It was unreal, especially being able to walk through my front door," the Hooksett, New Hampshire, woman, 37, told ABC News. "From the beginning, they were always talking about how we needed to raise money in case we had to put up a ramp and there was never one minute I thought I would need it. ... I refused to put ramps up in any part of my house because I wanted to walk through my front door -- and I actually reached that goal.”
Carnucci was vacationing with her husband, Frank Carnucci, and friends when she and her girlfriends decided to go for a nighttime swim. She dove into the shallow lake, hitting the bottom at an odd angle.
“I remember hitting the bottom of the lake and it was just a weird feeling," she said. "I never felt any pain; it was just a ringing in my ears. I felt like I was floating.”
Her friend dragged her out and they kept her body still until ambulances rushed her to emergency surgery, which ended up saving her ability to move.
“When I had come out of the water, the only movement I had was from my elbows to my shoulders,” she said. “And when I woke up from surgery the next morning, I could move my right foot. And from then on, slowly, things just started to wake up.”
Carnucci moved to a rehabilitation center for several weeks where she painstakingly regained the ability to walk. Her husband stayed with her the entire time, commuting back and forth to work an hour each way, every day.
“I have the best husband in the world. He was amazing. It really takes something like this to show how close. I have no words,” she said. “He did everything I could think of and he never got tired of it and he was always there. He’s the hero here, not me.”
During their time at the rehabilitation center, her husband started a Facebook movement under the hash tag #CarnucciStrong, in reference to the #BostonStrong movement. Family members, friends and even strangers from across the world began sending Carnucci photos, cards and flowers for support. People even stepped up and took care of their two children for the first month before her parents could come up from Maryland.
“If I didn’t have that support, I definitely would not have been anywhere near where I am now," she said. "Before I knew it, there were hundreds of people with the ‘Carnucci Strong’ signs and shirts. It was everywhere. It was nonstop. I was in complete disbelief.
“It’s just little me; I had an accident," she said, "and yet hundreds of people were just coming up with these pictures and my neighbors were making signs to put up on their lawns, even people I don’t know. Every day, [there are] new cards and new pictures of people we don’t even know.”
Moving forward, Carnucci is trying to return to normal while regaining full function of her left side.
“I still have issues with my left leg, and my left hand isn’t working so well so I still have a lot of rehab to do,” she said. “I’ve got a ways to go -- but it’s coming.”