Pool Party Prank Leads to Paralysis for NC Bride-to-Be

A May 2010 bachelorette party at a house in Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA), turned tragic when a playful push into the backyard swimming pool caused the bride-to-be to fracture six vertebrae in her neck. Paralyzed instantly, Beach native Rachelle Friedman remains wheelchair-bound and unable to feel anything below her shoulders.

Friedman and her fiance recently received some help from the producers of the NBC Today show, who paid to have their Knightdale, North Carolina (NC), home renovated with an accessible shower and bathroom sink/vanity, as well as an elevator that allows Friedman to easily reach the house's second-floor bedroom.

Friedman's story may yet have an even happier ending, as she has progressed quicker in her rehabilitation than doctors and physical therapists had expected. She has control of her hands and arms and participates in a wheelchair rugby league.

Those gains from total arm and leg paralysis came at a high price in terms of time, money and effort. Friedman has undergone three days of therapy each week since first leaving Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital last summer and will likely need special treatment to maintain her muscle tone and lung capacity for the rest of her life. She has forgiven her friend whose playfulness turned so wrong, but has had to indefinitely postpone her wedding over concerns ranging from her desire to walk down the aisle on her own to fear of losing Medicaid and other health benefits when her fiance's income from teaching is added to her own part-time earnings from a job with a nonprofit.

I'm pulling for Friedman to make a full recovery. Her determination and positive attitude has been heartwarming and, undoubtedly, inspirational to others who have suffered similar injuries. Still, even though this was certainly an unintended accident, it serves as an important reminder that backyard swimming pools can be very dangerous.

Each year, some 250 children younger than 5 years of age drown in above- and in-ground pools at private homes and apartment complexes. Drownings and near-drownings occur thousands of times annually, and diving and falling into shallow water leads to countless deaths and serious injuries among children and adults.

The following video presents essential information for keeping family members and guests safe around your backyard swimming pool.

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