By Rebecca Drew
THIS WOMAN’S right arm was left paralysed after her NERVES TORE FROM HER SPINE when she was hit by an SUV whilst walking her beloved pet dogs who she saved from the impact first.
Fashion designer, Cindy Lee Kharabarin (36) from Brooklyn, New York, USA, was walking her two pomeranian chihuahua mix dogs, Stinky (12) and Rambo (6) on June 22, 2018 when her life was changed forever.
Before crossing the road, Cindy checked that there was no traffic coming but as she crossed an SUV came out of nowhere and her instincts told her to throw her dogs to safety before saving herself but she was hit immediately and flung 20ft away from the impact and everything went blank.
The next thing Cindy knew, she woke up in hospital and her first instinct was to move her limbs, but she was unable to move her right arm. Initially she thought she’d just broken her arm but later found out that she had suffered a brachial plexus injury where her C8 and T1 nerves that control her arm and movement were ripped from her spine on impact.
Remarkably, Cindy didn’t break any bones but had blood on the brain and her right ear had almost completely ripped off.
Thankfully Stinky and Rambo were unharmed in the accident and Cindy spent just eight days in hospital but she struggled to adjust to her new way of life when she came home. Before, she was very active but she became depressed as she tried to manage her chronic nerve pain, which she will have for the rest of her life, and come to terms with being unable to do things she did before.
Cindy underwent nerve transfer surgery on December 26, 2018, and now has movement in her triceps. She needs to have two further surgeries to try and get movement back in her lower arm; a tendon transfer and a surgery to lock her wrist and thumb in place.
Cindy’s friends and family have been her biggest support system throughout her recovery with her husband, Philipp helping her do her stretches and massaging her back and arm when she is in pain.
“I remember walking on the crosswalk with my two puppies looking over and then everything went black. The next thing I know I am being wheeled on a stretcher into the Emergency Room at the hospital, at that moment I knew I was in an accident,” said Cindy.
“Later on, I found out from the people who called 911 that I was hit and flew 20 feet and landed in a way that tore my nerves that control my arm and hand off my spine. They said I was talking and awake but I don’t remember any of that.
“My youngest dog is always walking in front of me so I knew he was ok but my eldest dog always walks behind me and the way the car came he should have been hit also but I guess my automatic reaction was to throw him in front of me before being hit. They were unharmed, not one scratch thank god.
“The driver stopped I was told by the angels who ran to my side after I was hit. One was a paratrooper so he asked me if I was ok and apparently I told them my head hurt and I couldn’t feel my right arm so they helped me sit on the steps of a building until the police and ambulance came.
“I also told them my address which was around the block and one of them told my doorman what happened so he told my roommate when he got home and my roommate came and picked up the puppies.
“I just remember being so confused then realising I was in the hospital my first thought was to move my legs and move my left arm, they moved. Then I tried moving my right arm and I could not. At that moment I thought I just broke it but later found out something worse happened to my arm.
“I was in horrific pain so they gave me fentanyl for it but it was so bad that it didn’t even help me. Nerve pain is not pain it is torture. I had a traumatic brain injury so I was kept in the ICU for five days to monitor the blood in my brain which gave me migraines so bad I couldn’t function.
“I was put on so many pain medications in the beginning, but I am now only taking one kind of pain medication called Gabapentin. My pain med doctor and I decided to slowly go off meds altogether.
“I actually was not able to start therapy until three months after the accident due to insurance issues which killed me because I was losing all my muscle in my arm due to it being paralysed, and my arm was coming out of my shoulder because there was no muscle and it was super painful.
“The pain was too much for me to handle. I just kept telling myself I will get better. I actually didn’t know the seriousness of my injury till we started meeting with surgeons for my surgery. After that it really kicked in and I became extremely depressed.
“I couldn’t believe I might have a paralysed arm for the rest of my life including chronic nerve pain. You just don’t believe it, it’s so hard to accept it.”
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that carry signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm and hand. Damage to these nerves can lead to lack of muscle control and paralysis and are often associated with sports injuries and motor vehicle accidents.
Since the accident, everything in Cindy’s life has changed. She is limited as to what she can do before her pain gets too much and she becomes exhausted and getting dressed takes her three times longer than it used to.
Living with only one functioning arm has given Cindy the inspiration to start designing products to help other one-armed people do basic tasks like getting dressed and doing their hair.
“I am a year in and this has been the hardest journey of my life. I am normally a very positive individual, but I became depressed and suicidal after the accident but with the help of my family and friends I pulled through and I am just happy to be alive,” continued Cindy.
“I am finally somewhat ready to go back to work so I am applying and I am exercising to just keep me sane and healthy. I am also designing my own products to help my fellow one armed people out there because I understand the struggle and if I can make someone’s life easier while they deal with their disability then that makes me happy and I am making a difference.
“I don’t believe someone who is struggling with a disability should also struggle with the easy things like doing your hair or getting dressed.
“No matter how hard it gets, no matter how much you just want it to all end, there one-hundred per cent is a light at the end of the tunnel. When you are there in pain when you are crying just tell yourself this will pass, a new day will come, a better one.
“I wanted to give up so many times but trust me good will come. I am still in recovery mode but staying positive has definitely helped me recover quicker. So please remember if you feel sad or depressed make a list of what you are grateful for and blast music and just sway or dance to it and just smile.
“The mind is an amazing thing and when it works with the body it’s extraordinary what both can do together. Appreciate life, appreciate your body, appreciate the people in your life. Like Oprah said, ‘Whatever you are going through, you will do just that; go through it. It will pass and the rainbow will come out.”