UK woman paralysed after cracking her neck causes 'one in a million' stroke

A young UK woman cracked her neck while watching a movie in bed. Fifteen minutes later, she collapsed.

Natalie Kunicki is a 23-year-old paramedic for London Ambulance Service. On March 4, she'd been out drinking and came home to watch films with a friend.

At one point she stretched her neck and heard a much louder crack than she was expecting, but didn't think much of it at first. After about 15 minutes she got up to go to the bathroom and collapsed to the floor, and quickly found she was unable to move one of her legs.

While her friend assumed she was just drunk, Kunicki was worried, wondering if she'd been drugged while she was out. She put off calling an ambulance out of embarrassment, telling the Daily Mail she didn't want her colleagues to show up and find her "tipsy".

When she couldn't fall asleep, she gave in and dialled 999. Ambulance crew carried out tests which quickly confirmed something was seriously wrong - Kunicki's coordination had gone and her heart rate and blood pressure were both "sky-high".

After arriving at hospital, doctors told her that when she stretched her neck, she'd ruptured her vertebral artery which in turn formed a blood clot in her brain, and within minutes had triggered a stroke.

"It was just spontaneous, and there's a one in a million chance of it happening," she told the Daily Mail.

She was rushed to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery where she underwent emergency three-hour surgery. Surgeons were able to repair her ruptured artery with a stent, but could not clear the clot in her brain, which will hopefully dissolve on its own in time.

The stroke left the left side of Kunicki's body almost totally paralysed, although she is slowly regaining her mobility.

She was shocked by the diagnosis, which she said left her "emotionless" for days.

"I don't smoke, I don't really drink and I don't have any family history of strokes so it's quite strange it happened to me when I was just moving in bed," she told the Daily Mail.

She's since discovered strokes are quite common in active young people, and wants to raise awareness of the potentially devastating impact they can have.

Six weeks on, Kunicki does daily exercises which have helped her to regain enough movement in her leg, arm and hand to be able to walk for short distances - although she still struggles with doing up her buttons.

After being forced to move out of her flat because she couldn't afford the rent while unemployed, Kunicki is living with her parents, who will be returning to Australia in July.

Her brother has set up a Go Fund Me page to help his little sister get back on her feet, which has already raised more than £3600 (NZ$6970) in donations.

She hopes to be back working as a paramedic in six to 12 months' time, although she told the Daily Mail she'll probably have to start off on 'light duty'.

"I'm determined to get back to work as soon as I can. I just love it."


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