Woman left paralysed on hen do after friend pushed her into swimming pool
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Featured Image Credit: Instagram/ TikTok / @rachelles_wheels
A woman who was left paralysed after her friend pushed her into a pool on her hen do has opened up about life after the accident.
Rachelle Chapman, who hails from North Carolina, US, was paralysed from the chest down after the tragic incident which took place back in 2010, when one of her friends just wanted to have a bit of light-hearted fun.
In preparation for her new life as a wife, 24-year-old Rachelle and her pals were enjoying a night out in Virginia Beach for her hen party before they went back to Rachelle's best friend's home to carry on the festivities by the pool.
Rachelle recalled: "I remember freaking out that I would not find the white shoes I wanted."
Later, her parents dropped her off at her friend's house where the group 'would be starting the fun before going out that night'.
"I remember hugging them goodbye and that would be the last time I stood up giving them a hug," Rachelle continued.
The hens started with a cookout followed by a major getting ready session and some pics by the pool before the limo arrived.
Rachelle remembers the night out 'fondly', noting that she and her mates 'had so much fun' before admitting: "I think people were wondering if we were drinking and we definitely were.
"But none of us were crazy drunk. I remember the entire night and it was seriously some wholesome fun."
Naturally, like on every night out, the women's feet 'started to hurt' so they made the decision to head back to the house and go for a dip in the pool.
Rachelle said: "We got there and I remember running upstairs to put on a bikini and when I came downstairs I stood by the pool. It was so cool out because it was 23 May."
This is when everything took a turn for the worst, resulting in an accident which would change everyone at the hen do's lives forever.
Rachelle continued: "Then my friend came up and pushed me in my upper back into the pool.
"Reflexively, I tried to control the fall because I was about to bellyflop. Unfortunately, it was actually the shallow end."
She ended up being thrust into the pool 'headfirst' and ended up breaking her neck on the spot, resulting in a serious spinal cord injury.
"Instantly I stopped moving," she told us.
Rachelle 'knew almost instantly' that she was paralysed as she was completely unable to 'swim to the top' of the pool.
"I freaked out," she remembered. "I was freezing and scared so I wanted to get out."
She was then taken to the side of the pool, where Rachelle made the harrowing discovery: "I could see my legs in the water but I couldn’t feel them."
Rachelle was quadriplegic, and her initial reaction when she first found out the news was, remarkably, to use humour as somewhat of a coping mechanism.
"When people say, something's, like a dream, I know what they mean now," she said. "It didn’t seem real, but I didn’t cry.
"My parents fell into each other’s arms when the doctor told them though. After the initial shock, I tried dealing with it through humour, even that night."
Unsurprisingly, the incident meant Rachelle had to 'put her wedding off'.
"I was in the hospital for three months after I was hurt," she explained. "We had a wedding the following year in July."
The woman that pushed Rachelle into the pool was her maid of honour and the pair have somewhat of a freighted relationship now.
Talking about her, Rachelle revealed: "I wasn’t angry at her because it was an accident.
"I’ve never been angry at somebody if they haven’t done something on purpose. Yes, the push was purposeful, but she did not intend to hurt me.
"I put aside all of my needs to be there for her. I spent every single day on the phone with her for the longest time, just telling her I was OK, even though I wasn’t."
While for many years Rachelle and the maid of honour's friendship remained stable, Rachelle said they grew apart over time as they saw each other less and less following the accident.
The impacts of the fall didn't stop there. As well as her physical injuries and being forced to delay her wedding, Rachelle unfortunately also lost her job and was unable to work.
"My major was in parks and recreation and my job had been running a senior citizen centre teaching aerobics and line dancing. I lost that job after a promotion I had been so excited to get," Rachelle explained.
Talking about how she has adapted to her new life following the incident now over a decade later, Rachelle said it is her 'new normal'.
"I am actually a lot stronger than I was for the first couple years and I'm able to do a lot more for myself," she told us.
Rachelle can now drive, get in and out of bed, clean the house and 'much more'.
She went on: "I think when people hear that I’m a quadriplegic they think I can’t move anything from the neck down, but that is actually a big misconception.
"Quadriplegic just means impairment of four limbs. I do not have any hand function or triceps. Those being paralysed affects my life far more than not being able to walk. But I pick things up still."
Rachelle, who is now a mum, has said her little tot is her 'whole world'.
"It’s so expensive and without any help we wouldn’t be able to have another baby," she said.
Rachelle is now self-employed as a social media influencer, adding: "What I want people to know, is that I am so thankful for people who follow me and interact with me.
"Not only does it keep me feeling like I’m making a difference, but it allowed me to make enough financially that I was able to get off Social Security."
The TikToker continued: "A lot of people want the followers for the attention but having followers is literally helping me feed my family, pay for things like gym memberships that are keeping me healthy, make memories with my family and live a happier life without as much stress on my husband."
Rachelle, who is also the author of The Promise: A Tragic Accident, a Paralyzed Bride, and the Power of Love, Loyalty, and Friendship, has set up a GoFundMe page to help fund a new, specialised, wheelchair-accessible vehicle after a car accident left her previous van no longer roadworthy.
You can donate here.