One morning, in 2011, Monique Jeffrey, of Rose Bay, Australia, was at home, in her bed, checking her emails. She sneezed and her head suddenly jolted forward, collapsing the C1 and C2 vertebrae in her neck.
She had broken her neck in what experts called a “freak accident”, but the chances of something like this happening twice to the same person were apparently “slim to none”.
And yet, last month, Monique suffered the same ordeal, this time while laughing with some colleagues at work.
“I texted Sam (her husband) just saying ‘help!’ and he called me and I answered on speaker phone, because I couldn’t put the phone to my ear,” Monique recalls about the bizarre accident she suffered over five years ago. “He came home and called an ambulance. It was pretty scary and it was such a strange sensation. I was in so much pain after just one little sneeze.”
She had to be placed in a neck traction, an uncomfortable device that immobilizes the neck muscles and allows them to heal, for 14 weeks, and made a full recovery.
She was back to her old self again, and everything was great up until three week again, when the unthinkable happened again.
“I was at work and I had a bit of a stiff neck. Nothing awful, it was just a little bit sore,” Jeffrey told News.com.au. “I was actually joking around with some colleagues because they were making some inappropriate jokes about how I may have hurt my neck, and I threw my head back and did it again.”
The Australian mother-of-two says that this second accident didn’t feel as bad as the first, but it did leave her unable to move her head again, and the injury was apparently bad enough that doctors had to use a neck halo on her. This is a metal device that screws into the patient’s skull and stops them from moving their head.
“I’ve had two kids and getting the halo is worse than childbirth,” Monique said. “I can lie down but I sleep sitting up in a special bed. The halo completely supports my head and my neck. All the muscles in my neck are wasting away but I don’t have to hold my head up because it’s being held up by the bars and screws.”
She will have to wear the neck halo for six weeks, after which she will undergo months of physiotherapy and rehab to strengthen her neck muscle, but because she has already suffered this type of extremely unlikely accident twice in five years, the chances of it happening again is really high.
So if the therapy proves unsuccessful, doctors may have to perform surgery to “fuse” her C1 and C2 vertebrae, so they can no longer collapse.
“It’s not terminal, I’m going to be fine, but it does suck a bit. You just have to laugh about it,” an optimistic Monique said.
Monique and her husband Sam both work full time to support their two children, and her having to be hospitalized for months is going to be tough on the family, financially. Her sister set up a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe, where people willing to help them get through this ordeal can donate. The $8,000 goal has already been met, but if you’d like to make a contribution, it would definitely be appreciated.