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Woman paralyzed after freak hammock accident

Posted at 2:01 AM, Sep 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-17 02:01:57-04

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/CNN) – A mother is fighting to recover after a 15-foot rotten tree fell on her, breaking her neck and initially leaving her paralyzed from the neck down.

Alyssa Pfannenstein, 25, and her boyfriend Justin Janssen set up a hammock between two large birch trees in a Minnesota park over Labor Day Weekend. They had no idea one of the trees was rotten from the inside.

“People do it all the time. We’ve done it all the time. We are very adventurous,” Janssen said. “We didn’t expect something like this.”

As the two watched Pfannenstein’s 4-year-old daughter play, one 15-foot birch came crashing down on top of Pfannenstein.

“All of a sudden, just this big boom hit me in the back of the head,” Pfannenstein said.

The tree hit the mother’s neck, breaking it and leaving her unable to move, but she still found the strength to comfort her loved ones.

“She calmed me down. She calmed her daughter down, and she made us understand everything would be OK,” Janssen said.

Pfannenstein’s attitude hasn’t changed during the two weeks she’s spent at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, and it’s that attitude which is a big part of the reason doctors see the mother already making progress.

Pfannenstein is able to feel touch again, and her family is praying she’ll make a full recovery.

“We just want to appreciate every miracle,” Janssen said. “Accidents happen, and we will get through this like anything else.”

Pfannenstein says she’s just thankful her daughter, who rarely leaves her mother’s side, wasn’t in the hammock.

“It would have killed her. There’s no way she could have lived through that,” Pfannenstein said. “Very blessed, you know, I would take a tree for her any day.”

Pfannenstein will soon enter a rehab facility to work on regaining mobility and strength. Her family has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for her ongoing medical expenses.

While it can be hard to spot a rotten tree, some signs are branches with no leaves, damaged roots or fungus.

Copyright 2017 WCCO, Justin Janssen via CNN. All rights reserved.