ATLANTA, GA (WMC) - The 18-year-old Arkansas State University student impaled with the shaft of a golf club slowly recovers at Shepherd's Center in Atlanta.
Doctors upgraded Natalie Jo Eaton from critical to serious condition in early September. Nearly a week later, Eaton's mother posted a picture to Facebook of Natalie taking her first ride in a wheelchair since leaving Regional Medical Center in Memphis.
Natalie, literally, took huge steps this week when she learned how to walk again; family feared she would be paralyzed, but her improving condition two months after the horrific incident proves otherwise.
The university freshman arrived at the Memphis hospital mid-August after the freak accident, which happened during rush week at ASU. During activities before a cookout, a student used the golf club as a bat when attempting to swing at a football, but the shaft broke and went flying in the air.
According to the incident report, it traveled 30 feet before impaling Eaton; part of her spine was struck and an artery was damaged by a sharp fragment. Her friends told WMC Action News 5 the student with the club may have saved her life by holding her head steady for about 15 minutes.
"She just went to fall and he held her head," friend Makaleigh Riddle said. "If that [the club] had moved at all, there was not really anything anyone could have done. His quick reaction probably saved her life. He had to be really strong for that. I couldn't imagine."
Community members from Eaton's hometown of Harrisburg, Arkansas, classmates, and friends say they continue to pray for a young woman with her whole life in front of her.
"Even if you don't know her that well, find a way to lift her and her family up. They could use every single bit of it. Everybody who meets Natalie loves her. If you knew her, you would love her," Riddle said.
No charges have been reported, but university officials said shortly after the incident in August that they didn't expect students to face any.