COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mount Sterling native Kiley Kunis loved her life as a stay-at-home mom with her one-year-old son, Braxlee. Everything, while she was on vacation with her fiancé, Bryant Neel, over Memorial Day Weekend.
They brought their UTVs, or side-by-sides, with them on a trip with family and friends to ride the Hatfield-McCoy Trails in West Virginia.
After about four hours of riding, there was a malfunction in the UTV Neel and Kunis were riding in.
"He kept screaming that his brakes went out,” Kunis said.
The side-by-side they were riding in was unable to stop and crashed into the UTV in front of them. Neel was ejected and landed in a ravine. The wind was knocked out of him, but he rushed to Kunis, who was hanging from the side-by-side caught in a harness.
"I was hoping maybe you know she just got banged up a little bit but when we got her unsnapped from the harnesses and she kind of slumped out in a way that she shouldn't have moved per say so when I grabbed her, I could feel it in her back,” Neel said.
“It was the most excruciating pain I've ever, ever felt… what was said kind of sticks with me forever... being begged not to die,” Kunis said.
The side-by-side had flipped during the crash, landing on Kunis and continuing to roll. A nurse who happened to be riding the trails that day rushed to her side to help until EMS arrived on scene. Kunis credits that woman with saving her life. She was taken by Life Flight to the nearest trauma hospital.
"It was just a complete 180 spiral from normal life,” Neel said.
Kunis was left paralyzed from the waist down. She said her doctors told her she broke all three layers of her spine, and her spinal cord was crushed.
"The main thing they're very shocked about is my aorta and how I survived as long as I did without internally bleeding out,” Kunis said.
Kunis said she survived six hours with a torn aorta before going into surgery to have a stent put in.
According to the University of Chicago Medicine, about 40% of people who suffer from aortic dissection die almost immediately. Their risk of death increases by as much as 4% every hour it's untreated.
"Very, very lucky and blessed to be able to still tell my family I love them and watch my son grow up," Kunis said.
Despite all of the surgeries, scans, tests, and trials over the last two weeks, Kunis said she has never lost hope.
"I fully believe I'll walk again, it’s just going to take a lot of hard work and dedication,” Kunis said.
On Saturday, Kunis is being transferred back to Ohio, to Ohio State Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital where she will begin physical therapy.
A fundraising page has been set up for Kunis and Neel to cover hospital costs.
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