Natalie Eaton opens up about her recovery after freak accident at fraternity house

Natalie Eaton opens up about her recovery
Published: Nov. 11, 2014 at 8:13 PM CST
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(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Mid-South college student who survived a freak accident at a fraternity house is talking about what happened and her recovery.

Natalie Eaton was a freshman at Arkansas State University when a student hit a football with a golf club, snapping it in half, sending the broken shaft flying across the yard. The club impaled Natalie's neck, paralyzing her.

Natalie is fighting her way back to normal and is opening up about her recovery and her faith.

"I was at the fraternity house. They were grilling hamburgers," she said. "Me and two of the redheaded girls said, 'Let's take a picture.' So, we took a picture. Seconds before, I switched places with another girl and then from behind is when the golf club came."

The picture taken shows that very moment, frozen in time. And if you look closer, you can see what Natalie couldn't — a young man about to take the devastating swing.

The small steps she takes now add up to huge progress in her recovery at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

"I used to complain about doing makeup and now I'm like, 'I did my makeup.' That's a big step," she said.

Cathi Dugger is part of Natalie's treatment team, which includes physical and occupational therapy, as well as counseling.

"It's a marathon and we are just the first steps," Dugger said. "The right side is the weak side. But the other challenge is on the left side. It's the feeling."

Machines are using electric stimulation to strengthen her right arm, shoulder, and grip. Then it will be on to walking and re-learning balance with the help of a body weight support system on an overhead track.

As Natalie fights to regain control over her body, you can't help but wonder if she blames the young man whose actions put her in this position.

"I'm not gonna say that I don't have my moments," she said. "I do have my moments where I want to blame someone. I'm angry. And I'm just mad at the whole situation because it's hard."

"He has written Natalie a note," said Natalie's mother, Fonda Lofton. "It's very, very sincere. It's one of those that will make you cry when you read it."

The letter talks of Natalie's courage and his sorrow for the pain and worry Natalie's family is going through. Natalie believes faith and forgiveness can heal all.

"You have to remember, God's grace covers everything," Natalie said. "That boy couldn't even try to do it again. I don't even think it could be redone. How can I blame him for something I think God had a plan for? Something good that is going to come out of this."

Natalie's next goal is to walk to class at Arkansas State University. She says she wants to go back to the life she had just begun to experience, only two days into her freshman year.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.