Bride-to-Be Rachelle Friedman Is Paralyzed After a Bachelorette Party Joke Went Wrong

Rachelle Friedman probably won't walk again after severing her spinal cord.

ByABC News
November 16, 2010, 2:41 PM

Nov. 17, 2010 — -- Rachelle Friedman says she remembers the very moment she went from bride-to-be -- just a month away from her dream wedding -- to wheelchair-bound, paralyzed from good-natured horseplay gone terribly wrong at her own bachelorette party.

"It all happened very quickly," Friedman, 25, told Friedman had been out celebrating her pending nuptials with her bridesmaids when they decided to go for a swim at the end of the night.

"We got home, ran upstairs and changed into our bathing suits," said Friedman. "My best friend -- and she still is my best friend -- she playfully pushed me in like we've done a million times."

"It was playful, but it went wrong," she said. "It was a freak accident." She hit her head on the bottom of the pool.

"I instantly went stiff and couldn't move," said Friedman. "I weirdly did not panic, I kind of knew exactly what happened and I floated up to the surface and said, 'Help!' and then my friends called 9-1-1."

"I remember when they were pulling me out of the water I could see my legs below me but I couldn't feel the water on them," she said.

Doctors at the Virginia Beach, Va., hospital quickly determined that Friedman had suffered a C6 spinal cord injury, leaving her unable to walk, or even feel sensation beneath her collarbone.

"I remember the doctor telling me I wasn't going to walk," said Friedman. "He was very sure that I'd never, ever walk. Sometimes they give you percentages, he was pretty much like 'absolutely not.'"

The first call Friedman made was to her fiance, Chris Chapman, who had been camping with his father the night of the accident.

Friedman and Chapman's wedding had been set for June 27 at the Lesner Inn in Virginia Beach. A wedding website created by Friedman shared notes of excitement that she was marrying her "very first boyfriend." The two had been engaged for nearly a year and together for five.

"I remember talking to him – I wasn't crying I just wanted him to understand the severity of it before he got to the hospital," Friedman said of a phone call to her fiance after the accident. "I wanted to make sure he knew what happened that I didn't just break my leg.

"I said, 'I broke my neck and I'm probably not going to walk,' I was very straightforward and very monotone with him," she said.

After a stint in the ICU and then nearly three months in the hospital, Friedman quickly learned just how grueling rehab would be.

"It was definitely a reality check about the long road I was going to have," she said. "I have no function in my hands – no fingers. I didn't think about that in ICU, you only think, 'I'm not going to walk.'"

"Now, going through everything, that's the first thing I'd want to come back -- my hand function," she said. "Even before being able to walk."

On August 17, Friedman finally returned to the home in Knightdale, N.C., where she and Chapman had dreamed of starting their family together.