Natalie Barnhard’s Tragic Accident In The Gym Paralyzed Her Instantly

Natalie had no idea that a regular day at work was going to change her life drastically.

Natalie had no idea that a regular day at work was going to change her life drastically.

Editor’s Note: Natalie Barnhard from Buffalo, New York genuinely cares for people. As a physical therapy assistant and massage therapist, her mission in life was to try and relieve the pain and suffering of people with injuries and disabilities. As an active and independent young woman, Natalie never thought she’d need someone to help her. She never really understood the emotional problems that victims of tragic accidents or unexpected illnesses faced, until she experienced tragedy in her own life. Part 2 of a 5 part series.

After finishing high school and working at an orthopedic clinic for about a year, Natalie took a position at a different clinic. On October 22, 2004, Natalie reported to work with no idea that the rest of her life was about to change dramatically.

She exercised a lot–when she wasn’t at work she was at the gym. One day, while Natalie was at work, a 600 pound machine unexpectedly fell on top of her. Natalie tried to push the machine off her and stop the equipment from falling but that didn’t work.

“Although I remember falling back, the next thing I remember was that the machine was on top of me, and people had run over to where I was and were trying to pull the machine off me. A big stack of weights was right on top of me, and I knew I was paralyzed. I had the strangest feeling, because I couldn’t feel my body or the floor. My neck was burning, and I had excruciating pain in my back. I was pretty sure I’d broken my neck. I knew from my past training that whatever had happened to me was bad, but of course, I didn’t realize just how bad.”

One of the physical therapists at the clinic called the paramedics. As Natalie remembers, “The paramedics got to me really fast and took me over to Erie County Medical Center, a trauma center. I remember being in the ER with my mom. I told my mom, who was trying to comfort me, ‘My life is over, and you don’t really understand how bad this is.”

Because of Natalie’s training and experience, she had a fairly accurate idea of how bad this injury was. Within 4 hours of the accident, she was in surgery. The doctors went through the front of her neck and inserted a metal plate and then went through the back of her neck and inserted two rods. The vertebrae of the spine had shattered, and there were bone fragments in her spinal cord. The operation stabilized Natalie’s neck by fusing her C4 –C7 vertebrae.

Natalie was left a quadriplegic and was unable to walk.

Natalie was left a quadriplegic and was unable to walk.

For more information about Natalie Barnhard, please click here. All photos in this story are taken from her personal website.

Please click here to learn about her foundation’s event, Natalie’s Walk, which will take place on September 8, 2012. This event supports those who have suffered a spinal cord injury.

Tomorrow: How Quadriplegic Natalie Barnhard Dealt With Her Feelings After Her Injury

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

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