Natalie Kunicki suffered a stroke after she cracked her neck while stretching, leaving her paralyzed on her left side

By Helen Murphy
April 16, 2019 01:11 PM
Natalie Kunicki
Kennedy News and Media

A 23-year-old paramedic based in London was left partially paralyzed after she cracked her neck while stretching and accidentally ruptured a major artery.

According to the Daily Mail, Natalie Kunicki, a paramedic for London Ambulance Service, was watching movies in bed with a friend after a night out in March, when she stretched out her neck and heard a loud cracking sound.

Fifteen minutes later, Kunicki got up to use the bathroom and collapsed on the floor, not able to move her left leg.

“I got up and tried to walk to the bathroom and I was swaying everywhere,” Kunicki told the Daily Mail. “I looked down and realised I wasn’t moving my left leg at all then I fell to the floor.”

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At first, Kunicki didn’t call for help because she didn’t want her colleagues to turn up in an ambulance and find her “tipsy.” “I thought it was too unlikely it would be a stroke when I should have known much better,” she said.

After she eventually called for help, an ambulance rushed Kunicki to the University College London Hospital, where she underwent a three-hour surgery after doctors discovered the ruptured artery in her neck, according to the Daily Mail. 

“The doctors told me later that just that stretching of my neck had caused my vertebral artery to rupture,” Kunicki said. “It was just spontaneous and there’s a one in a million chance of it happening.”

Natalie Kunicki
Kennedy News and Media

The rupture of the major artery in her neck caused a blood clot in Kunicki’s brain that triggered a stroke. During surgery, doctors repaired the artery, but weren’t able to fully remove the blood clot. (The doctors believe it will dissolve in time, per the Daily Mail.)

The Daily Mail reported that Kunicki’s left side was almost completely paralyzed by the stroke.

“At the start, I couldn’t move my thumb and forefinger,” she said. “I could kind of move my wrist up and down. I couldn’t lift my arm. I could bend my left leg but I couldn’t wiggle my toes.”

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Though doctors said they can’t know if she’ll ever make a full recovery, Kunicki is now regaining mobility and hopes to be back at work for “light duty” in six to 12 months.

“I’ve recovered movement in my left side,” she said, according to the Daily Mail. “I can walk but not for more than five minutes.”

“People need to know that even if you’re young something this simple can cause a stroke,” she added. “I wasn’t even trying to crack my neck. I just moved and it happened.”

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