Paralympic Athlete Says Spinal Cord Injury Changes Everything

The Vancouver Sun recently spoke with paralympic athlete Lauren Barwick about the spine injury that changed her life.

The injury occurred on June 17, 2000. Barwick was 22 at the time, and she had just started working at a ranch that provides horses for television and film shoots. Barwick worked hard to get the competitive apprenticeship. She hoped to make a career out of caring for horses.

When she arrived for work that morning, she found that the hay bales had been stacked improperly, as if someone had been pulling bales from the bottom of the stack. Normally, bales are pulled out to leave steps to the top of the pile. That morning, the stack resembled a game of Jenga.

Barwick didn’t want to ask for help because she didn’t want to upset her boss. She decided to climb to the top of the stack, despite its precarious condition.

"My boss was known to have a temper," she said. "You try to get stuff done yourself before asking for help out of fear of backlash. The only option I felt was to climb to the top and throw from the top down."

That one decision would change her whole life. When Barwick made it to the top of the stack, she knew that it was too unsteady to hold her. She jumped down, but a bale followed her and landed on her. She was paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Barwick never believed that such a thing could happen to her. The accident had severed her spinal cord in two places and broken two vertebrae.

“It changed everything,” she said. “Everything I do in my day to day life takes longer to schedule. In everything I do, I have to accommodate my disability. Everything is a challenge.”

Despite her spinal cord injury, Barwick won silver and gold medals at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing in equestrian events.

She believes that she should have paid more attention to workplace safety issues, even though her boss was known to have a temper. She now knows that she should have simply asked for help.

"I would have rather have lost my job, have risked being yelled at by my boss if I had ever thought the outcome could have been a disability for the rest of my life," she said. "No amount of money is worth your health or life. We have careers to better our lives. You look at me in my wheelchair. Have I bettered my life?"

I have represented several spinal cord injury victims, and I am well aware that such an injury changes everything in life. Every day is a challenge, especially in the rehabilitation after the accident. Recovery from spinal cord injuries can be costly and timely.

If you or someone you love suffered a spinal cord injury because of the negligence, recklessness, or carelessness of someone else, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Contact an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer to learn about your legal rights. For a free consultation, call MLN Law at 404-531-9700.