Once-paralyzed ASU student reflects on freak accident, new beginnings

Once-paralyzed ASU student reflects on freak accident, new beginnings
Natalie and Tim (Source: Family)
Natalie and Tim (Source: Family)
Natalie rehabbing (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Natalie rehabbing (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - In 2014, Natalie Eaton was a freshman at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro when a student hit a football with a golf club, snapping the club in half, sending the broken shaft flying across the yard. The club impaled Natalie's neck, paralyzing her.

But now, Eaton is a walking miracle and she believes divine intervention is behind this exciting new chapter in her life.

After driving a car once seemed impossible for her, the foot is back on the gas for the once paralyzed college student.

"The two years I've had, there is so much I can look back on and be like, 'I did that,'" Eaton said. "I learned to do that. God's grace got me through that."

Doctors believed Natalie would never walk again, but after five months of intense therapy at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, she proved them wrong.

"Most injuries, spinal cord injuries, they are this way (horizontal). They lose the ability below the waist or below shoulders, but mine was weird and went this way (vertical)," Eaton said.

Fast forward to today, and Natalie is walking.

"Every morning we go and walk two miles and the neatest thing about that is people will say, 'why would you get up that early and go walk?' and my only answer is, if you didn't have the ability to do it and then you regained that ability, overcame and learned to do it again, you are wanting to do it as much as possible," she said.

She still has loss of feeling in her left arm, but the minor setbacks are not stopping her from trying to live as normal of a life as possible. She is back at ASU and in November, she will marry into the Jarrett family: son Luke, daughter Lexi, and dad Tim.

"My wife passed away in February of 2013. We were on our way to Memphis to see a friend who had just had lung cancer removal surgery and we got through Earle and an 18-wheeler crossed the center line and hit us head on," Tim Jarrett said.

Tim's wife, a close friend of Natalie's, died in the crash.

"When it happened, he was a single father and so we all just kind of stepped in and helped as much as possible for the sake of the kids, that they could get back to a somewhat normal life for them," Eaton said.

After helping care for Lexi and Luke on a regular basis, Natalie eventually started dating Tim, approximately one year after his wife's accident and one month before her own accident.

"If the kids were not in the picture, there would be no us," Natalie said. "Because I fell in love with his kids first, because I saw what they had gone through and I just kind of developed a love for them, and then he came in the picture, and I fell in love with him."

Natalie said the Jarret's tragedy helped open her eyes to how lucky she was to be alive after her own tragedy.

"They have been through so much as well as me, so you know through their eyes when I got hurt, it was not a big deal. It was nothing for them," she said.

"Just looking back on it like, Natalie said we can see, at least in our hearts, the hand of God guiding us together where we needed to be," Tim Jarrett said.

Eaton said the couple have already got a head start on the wedding vows.

"We've already lived through those lines 'for better or for worse'. We've had the worst; now we're looking for the better, and we're excited about that part," Eaton said.

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