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Woman Paralyzed After Falling from Balcony. Says She's Now 'Happier Then I've Ever Been'

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Author Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 book “Fight Club” contains a pair of intriguing lines, namely, “This was freedom. Losing all hope was freedom.”

That statement doesn’t sound like it makes much sense at first, but it actually does if you think about the idea of acceptance. See, once you understand that your lot in life is, well, your lot in life, you can let go of “what if” and actually live.

Twenty-five-year-old Jillian Harpin understands that truth. According to People, the Waltham, Massachusetts, financial analyst was enjoying working hard and playing even harder.

After a particularly taxing time at her job, she decided to head to Mexico’s Riviera Maya for a little rest and relaxation. Little did she know that the trip would change her life.

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Her future hung on her decision to make a phone call from the balcony of the room they were renting. In fact, it hung on the motion of one of her feet.

See, Harpin made the decision to sit on the balcony railing while calling. And as she lifted a foot, she lost her balance.

“I went to go sit on the railing, and I fell down three stories to the ground,” she told WFSB. The impact knocked her unconscious and broke her back, her sternum — and three vertebrae.

She was airlifted to Miami and remembers her father’s face while being prepared for surgery. “My dad was standing right in front of me, crying and crying,” she said.

“So I looked at him and I said, ‘Dad, it’s going to be okay. I’m still Jillian. I’m still here.’”

That strength of spirit would serve her well over the next two years. The accident had paralyzed Harpin from the chest down.

She recalled, “I never lost hope and I was always just saying, ‘Okay, I can get through this. I can learn how to use a wheelchair.

“‘It won’t take that long.’ I had to learn not to dwell on what could have been.”



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Harpin truly had to, because there was next to no chance that she would ever walk again — at least without assistance. Thanks to an EskoGT exoskeleton used to rehabilitate stroke and spinal-cord-injury patients, she has taken more than 15,000 steps as part of her therapy.

She also participated in a handcycling race and a Tough Mudder-esque competition called the Gaylord Gauntlet. “She hates it when [people] say, ‘You inspire me,’” her father told the Record-Journal.

“But it’s true, she really does. She helps other people get through their bad days just by thinking about her.”

Harpin, though, simply sees herself as going from day to day just like anyone else. “It’s crazy that there are so many active things on my bucket list, because I never really considered myself a risk-taker before,” she said.

“I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’m going to live the life I’m lucky enough to have.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
Education
Wheaton College
Location
Florida
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Entertainment, Faith, Travel




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