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5-Year-Old Girl Paralyzed While Practicing Gymnastics at Home

The Short of It

A freak accident paralyzed a 5-year-old girl while she was doing a backbend at home.

The Lowdown

My 5-year-old practices gymnastics at home all the time. Never in my wildest fears could I imagine what happened to Eden Hoelscher happening to my daughter. But living life as a paraplegic is now a reality for the California child, who collapsed while simply performing bridges in her living room a few months ago.

On Dec. 23, 2015, Eden was doing gymnastics moves while waiting to go shopping with her mom, Kylee, and older sister, Isabella, 9. She fell and started crying. Her mom consoled her until she calmed down, and then Eden walked to her room, put her boots on and got in the car to drive to the store. But a few miles down the road, Eden began complaining about her legs, so her mom drove back home so Eden could relax.

"She kind of looked at me and said, 'Mommy, it feels like my legs are asleep,' but her legs were in this strange position, so I said, 'Eden, move your legs. She said, 'I can't.' Then, I stood her up, and her legs buckled under her, and we went to the emergency room," Kylee told ABC News.

The injured girl would stay at the hospital for the next 52 days, and unthinkably, doctors would inform Kylee that Eden had lost the ability to walk.

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The heartbroken mom explains, "The damage, it's her entire spine, and it doesn't make any sense at all. It's just a backbend, and it's just devastating. You go from watching your 100 percent independent kid, who dressed herself, put her hair in a ponytail, to not being able to get out of bed, and it's almost impossible to bear."

The damage is so extensive that Eden no longer has control of her bowels or bladder and her body can't regulate its own temperature. She gets around in a wheelchair and must be awakened twice a night to move positions in an effort to avoid pressure sores.

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It seems Eden has always been a bit of a daredevil. Her mom wrote this about her daughter on a GoFundMe page that has been set up for Eden:

"Eden started walking at 9 months. Her first birthday pictures are filled with fat-lip smiles from a tumble the day before. She potty trained herself at 18 months. She had a hematoma in her ear from a fall when she was around 2. An adrenaline junkie at the park, around 3 years old, she begged for me to push her super high on the swings. She lost her grip and did a complete flip off the swing, landing in my arms as I stood (thankfully) underneath her. She learned how to ride a bike with no training wheels on the first ride. She did a flip on the bars a couple weeks into kindergarten and fell flat on her back, got up and went into class when the bell rang."

But Eden wouldn't recover from this latest injury. As Kylee explains on GoFundMe, "That backbend, something she had done hundreds of times before, hyperextended her spine and caused the artery that feeds her spinal cord to stop pumping blood, causing a stroke in her spinal cord. The extent of damage is unheard of."

The Upshot

Eden's story is a sobering reminder of how, as Kylee says, one instant can alter your life forever. But this little girl is also an inspiration.

"What that backbend hasn't done is take away Eden's spirit," her mom writes, adding, "Because of Eden's spirit and resiliency, we have never lost hope in her full recovery. Anyone who encounters Eden, including doctors, nurses and therapists, always have the same response: 'If anyone can recover from this, it's Eden.'"

Kylee also says about Eden, "She's still her same laughing, giggly, silly self. She wins over the heart of everyone she knows. It's amazing that her spirit has completely gone unchanged. The doctor said that's one of the things that she has going for her. In physical therapy, she won't cry or get mad; she'll just try as hard as she can."

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It's worth pointing out that this type of injury is, as one doctor describes it, a complete enigma, and exceedingly rare. In any case, I know I won't soon forget this brave young lady. What is your reaction to her story?

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