‘Sporty’ woman reveals who became quadriplegic after diving into pool reveals how life has changed

‘Sporty and active’ Long Island woman reveals how her life changed forever after breaking her neck diving into shallow end of a swimming pool at a party leaving her quadriplegic and ‘running on a battery’

  • Dana Barrett, 31, hit her head during a party in 2019 and woke up quadriplegic
  • She was in a coma and could not breathe or move independently for months
  • The ex-restaurant manager now lives on her own thanks to assistive technology  

A sporty and active woman has been left quadriplegic for life after breaking her neck diving into a swimming pool at a party after celebrating a win in mini golf.

Dana Barrett, 31, hit her head on the bottom of the pool in Long Island and was rushed to hospital by air ambulance in 2019.

When she woke up she was told she had broken her C2 vertebrae in her neck and she would never be able to walk again. 

Dana spent over a year in various hospitals as she was no longer able to move or breathe independently.

Dana Barrett was left quadriplegic for life after breaking her neck diving into a swimming pool at a party after celebrating a win in mini golf

Dana Barrett was left quadriplegic for life after breaking her neck diving into a swimming pool at a party after celebrating a win in mini golf

The former restaurant manager used to play volleyball, basketball and lacrosse throughout high school and did gymnastics from childhood.

But she was then forced to come to terms with the fact that she could never do the things she once enjoyed and now warns others of the dangers of diving.

She said: ‘I remember diving into the pool and hearing my neck crack, then nothing.

‘I woke up briefly to my boyfriend giving me mouth to mouth, then I didn’t wake up again until I was intubated in hospital two days later.

‘I thought I was having a nightmare at first, like I couldn’t move because I was being held down – and then I was told what had happened.

The former restaurant manager used to play volleyball, basketball and lacrosse throughout high school and did gymnastics from childhood

The former restaurant manager used to play volleyball, basketball and lacrosse throughout high school and did gymnastics from childhood

The former restaurant manager used to play volleyball, basketball and lacrosse throughout high school and did gymnastics from childhood

She was forced to come to terms with the fact that she could never do the things she once enjoyed and now warns others of the dangers of diving

She was forced to come to terms with the fact that she could never do the things she once enjoyed and now warns others of the dangers of diving

She hit her head on the bottom of the pool in Long Island and was rushed to hospital by air ambulance in 2019

She hit her head on the bottom of the pool in Long Island and was rushed to hospital by air ambulance in 2019

She hit her head on the bottom of the pool in Long Island and was rushed to hospital by air ambulance in 2019

Dana was at a pool party and barbeque with friends and boyfriend Seamus Cantwell, 31, at his home on June 29, 2019, when her life changed forever (pictured together)

Dana was at a pool party and barbeque with friends and boyfriend Seamus Cantwell, 31, at his home on June 29, 2019, when her life changed forever (pictured together)

‘Then nobody could visit because of covid and being alone so much made me really depressed thinking about how my life would be like that forever.

‘But now it’s been three years and I’ve come to terms with my new normal.

‘I still have struggles and get upset sometimes but I am very happy where I am now – I’m still the same Dana.

‘I dived into that pool millions of times before, it’s just something you never think will happen to you.’

Dana was at a pool party and barbeque with friends and boyfriend Seamus Cantwell, 31, at his home on June 29, 2019, when her life changed forever.

After winning a game of mini golf, Dana dived into the pool in celebration – but misjudged the depth and hit her head.

She said: ‘The pool was shallow at one end and deep at the other, I went to run and dive into the deep part but didn’t run far enough.

Dana spent over a year in various hospitals as she was no longer able to move or breathe independently (pictured with friends and family)

Dana spent over a year in various hospitals as she was no longer able to move or breathe independently (pictured with friends and family)

Dana spent over a year in various hospitals as she was no longer able to move or breathe independently (pictured with friends and family)

She learned she had been intubated and put in an induced coma at Stony Brook University Hospital, Long Island, after being airlifted there

She learned she had been intubated and put in an induced coma at Stony Brook University Hospital, Long Island, after being airlifted there

‘As I hit my head, I actually heard my neck crack.

‘I floated back up to the surface and I couldn’t move – but could hear people around me.

‘My friend thought I was joking – I could hear her saying “Dana, stop messing around now”.’

Then Dana passed out – because the moment she broke that vertebrae she became paralyzed from the neck down, meaning she could no longer breathe independently.

She recalled waking briefly to Seamus, a bartender, giving her mouth-to-mouth surrounded by all the party guests – but then didn’t wake again until she was in hospital days later.

She learned she had been intubated and put in an induced coma at Stony Brook University Hospital, Long Island, after being airlifted there.

Dana said: ‘I thought I was having a nightmare at first, I felt like I was being held down really hard.

‘I would try and lift my head and I felt like it was being pulled back down. I was getting so frustrated.’

Dana uses a trache tube and diaphragmatic pacer, which stimulates diaphragmatic contractions to force her body to breathe

Dana uses a trache tube and diaphragmatic pacer, which stimulates diaphragmatic contractions to force her body to breathe

This was when hospital staff came in to reveal to her the horrifying truth that her accident had rendered her quadriplegic.

After two months she was then moved to an acute rehab for a further two months, Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Centre, where she began doing physical therapy.

It was here she learned once more to speak, eat and drink normally and move her head up and down and side to side.

At this point Dana also began trying out some different wheelchairs to prepare her for semi-independent living.

After that, she was moved and began recovering at a local nursing home, Medford Multicare, before catching pneumonia and being forced to return to Stony Brook for a month for further treatments.

She was being visited every day by her family and Seamus – then Covid hit and curtailed visits.

She was transferred from Stony Brook back to Medford where she couldn’t see anyone due to nationwide lockdowns.

Dana said: ‘I was on lockdown with no visitors and couldn’t leave my room.

After winning a game of mini golf, Dana dived into the pool in celebration - but misjudged the depth and hit her head

After winning a game of mini golf, Dana dived into the pool in celebration – but misjudged the depth and hit her head

‘All that time alone got me really depressed realizing my life would be like this forever.

‘All I would do was watch TV and sit on FaceTime with various family members so I wasn’t on my own.’

In July of 2020 she was moved to a non-profit group home for people with trauma injuries – where she had a lot more freedom but was still assisted by nurses.

No longer attached to a ventilator, Dana uses a trache tube and diaphragmatic pacer, which stimulates diaphragmatic contractions to force her body to breathe.

She said: ‘This was a step back to normality.

‘I had a nurse with me which brought my anxiety down, and I started eating a lot more – I was just 100lbs at this point.

‘I got to see my family and friends again and it made me feel like I actually had my life back.

‘My friends would come over and when lockdown got better I could go out to the restaurant I used to work at.

‘It was my first outing and it was amazing. It was so good to see everyone and just be outside again.’

After spending some time there, fundraising paid for Dana to have built her own little cottage on the property which she moved into in November of 2020 – so she could have her own place, but still have support.

And this is where she has lived ever since – thanks to assistive technology that allowed her her freedom back.

Dana has an electric Hoyer lift to get in and out of bed, controls her lights and TV through her phone and uses her Amazon Alexa to control everything else.

She still sees her family and friends regularly and Seamus is always coming to stay.

Looking back on the traumatic experience, Dana said: ‘People don’t realize the lack of independence that comes with being quadriplegic.

‘I run on a battery now, so if something goes wrong, I can’t breathe, move or talk.

‘That’s always at the back of my mind, but I try to focus how lucky I am that I still have so much.

‘I can still eat and drink and talk, I have my home and my family and friends. I even got to meet my newborn nephew.

‘But I want to remind people how dangerous diving can be – so make sure you are aware of your surroundings.

‘I dived in that pool millions of times before – but it’s so easy to misjudge.’

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