A woman has revealed her right arm was left paralyzed after her nerves tore from her spine when she was hit by an SUV.
Cindy Lee Kharabarin, 36, from Brooklyn, was walking her two pomeranian chihuahua mix dogs, Stinky, 12, and Rambo, six, on June 22, 2018 when her life was changed forever.
She was out walking her beloved pet dogs when she saw a vehicle heading towards them – and incredibly, her first instinct was to save them from the impact first.
‘I actually didn’t know the seriousness of my injury till we started meeting with surgeons for my surgery,’ said Cindy, who now has one functioning arm. ‘After that it really kicked in and I became extremely depressed.’
‘I couldn’t believe I might have a paralyzed arm for the rest of my life including chronic nerve pain. You just don’t believe it, it’s so hard to accept it.’
Cindy Lee Kharabarin, 36, from Brooklyn, told how her right arm was left paralyzed after her nerves tore from her spine when she was hit by an SUV. Pictured, in hospital following her accident
Cindy is now sharing her story to help others realize there is light at the end of the tunnel. Pictured, she is trying to keep positive throughout her ordeal
Cindy said: ‘I actually didn’t know the seriousness of my injury till we started meeting with surgeons for my surgery,’ Pictured, Cindy in hospital following on from her accident
The accident took place when she was walking her beloved pet dogs Stinky and Rambo (pictured), who she saved from the impact first
Before crossing the road, the fashion designer checked there was no traffic coming but as she crossed, an SUV came out of nowhere.
‘I remember walking on the crosswalk with my two puppies looking over and then everything went black,’ she explained.
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
‘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,’ said Cindy.
The fashion designer’s instincts told her to throw her dogs to safety before saving herself, but she was hit immediately and flung 20ft away from the impact. Pictured, Cindy with her mother
While she didn’t break nay bones, Cindy had blood on the brain and her right ear had almost completely ripped off. Pictured, in hospital after her accident
‘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.’
She added: ‘The driver stopped, I was told by the angels who ran to my side after I was hit.’
‘They said 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.’
In hospital, Cindy’s natural reaction was to move her limbs, but she was unable to move her right arm.
‘My first thought was to move my legs and move my left arm, they moved,’ she said. ‘Then I tried moving my right arm and I could not.’
‘I was in horrific pain so they gave me Fentanyl for it but it was so bad that it didn’t even help me.’
Initially, Cindy thought she’d just broken her arm, but later found out 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. Pictured, Cindy’s shoulder following surgery
Cindy was in hospital for eight days following her accident (pictured) but struggled to adjust to life when she returned home
Initially, the fashion designer thought she’d just broken her arm but later found out 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.
‘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 medication altogether.’
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.
Cindy described the nerve pain as ‘not pain’ but ‘torture.’ Pictured, the scar on her arm from her nerve transfer
Cindy has thanked her family for being her support throughout her ordeal. Pictured with her brother, sister in law and husband, Phillipp
She underwent nerve transfer surgery on December 26, 2018, and now has movement in her triceps.
Cindy 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.
‘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 paralyzed,’ she said.
‘My arm was coming out of my shoulder because there was no muscle and it was super painful.
She added: ‘The pain was too much for me to handle. I just kept telling myself I will get better.’
Cindy struggled to adjust to her new way of life when she came home and tried to manage her chronic nerve pain, which she will have for the rest of her life.
Cindy’s shoulder as she’s started to regain muscle in her upper arm. Pictured left, before surgery and right, after
Cindy underwent nerve transfer surgery on December 26, 2018, and now has movement in her triceps. Pictured, in hospital after her accident
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.
Cindy’s friends and family have been her biggest support system throughout her recovery with her husband, Philipp is helping her do her stretches and massaging her back and arm when she is in pain.
‘I am a year in and this has been the hardest journey of my life,’ explained Cindy. ‘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.’
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 finally somewhat ready to go back to work so I am applying and I am exercising to just keep me sane and healthy,’ she said.
‘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.’
Cindy’s husband Philipp (pictured) is helping her do her stretches and massaging her back and arm when she is in pain
Cindy on the year anniversary of her accident and injury. She said: ‘I am still in recovery mode but staying positive has definitely helped me recover quicker’
Now, Cindy is sharing her story to help others realize there is 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,’ she said. ‘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.”‘
Living with only one functioning arm has inspired Cindy to start designing products to help other one-armed people do basic tasks. Pictured, Cindy and Phillipp
Cindy 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. Pictured, Cindy with her husband Phillipp and their dogs at Christmas 2018