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Recovery from a Broken Neck - Update

by Marie McKenna O'Brien(more info)

listed in healing, originally published in issue 101 - July 2004

I last wrote for this magazine in the year 2000 when I shared my story of a major road traffic accident in which I suffered spinal cord injury, my neck was broken and my subsequent miraculous healing. I say miraculous because members of the medical profession have expressed their amazement and relief as they have observed my recovery. My surgeon said "you are the luckiest person I have met… we have never known anyone to walk away from the degree of injury you sustained"; another surgeon commented "you have the luck of the Irish" (I am Scottish); my anaesthetist said "your attitude has brought you through" – so many comments and all expressing their joy and awe at my recovery.

So I find myself five years on from my accident pondering how amazing my life was before, during and since this event and where I am now. It is this that I would like to share with you.

Let me give a brief account of my story. On 30 June 1998 I was driving along country roads when a car, driven at high speed, hit me head on. My neck was broken. My story tells of the Presence that surrounded me as I waited to be rescued. It tells of the familiarity of those who came to rescue me and the awareness that I was being helped. It tells of the many synchronicities that are beyond the word 'coincidence', my paralysis, surgery and recovery. It is a true story of immense healing.

Positive Health published my story Recovery from a Broken Neck in 2000 and posted it on the Internet. The Internet is host to many stories of those who have broken their necks and recovered. It is possible to have a broken neck without spinal cord damage; however, in my case the break traumatized my spinal cord. So my story is the only one that I can find, although there may be others, where there has been initial paralysis and a complete recovery. My story, therefore, offers a lifeline to those who are looking for hope from someone, somewhere, who understands the trauma of a broken neck with spinal cord damage.

What has Happened Since the Original Story

Soon after my story was posted on the Web I started receiving letters and e-mails from around the world – people just reaching out. Many wanted help to find the strength to heal from major trauma; others were interested in the training I had undergone through Second Aid and others just wanted to share their experience of a broken neck. I answered all who wrote to me and felt deeply humbled by their stories. These e-mails continue to arrive. Some are from people whose loved ones have been in an accident where they have broken their neck and some from those who have broken their neck and who need help to fully recover. Many lives have been dramatically changed by this experience. Each story, each correspondent, is looking for help to find the power to heal or to help those they love.

A broken neck is a major and life threatening trauma, one where many will suffer paralysis with a resultant life change. Some may die; others may lose the power to all four limbs or to major organs of the body; yet others may be linked up to breathing apparatus, catheters, etc. The list is endless when the spinal cord is traumatized and some will make a partial or, in my case, a complete recovery.

My training as a psycho-spiritual advisor, counsellor, teacher and massage therapist has helped me greatly in being available for all who have corresponded.

I have also reached out to others for help and received excellent post-traumatic counselling. Yet no training can replace the experience of 'being there', of having been in the void, the depths and trusting the loving Presence, that voice at the Source which says "Trust, all will be well".

In my story, I tell of the 'voice' that spoke, advised, encouraged and kept me safe. This voice was, and is, a presence that remains with me to this day. In my physically powerless and critical situation, I listened. I believe that had I not listened whilst in the complete trauma of paralysis, I might be dead. The voice said "do not move, you have a spinal cord injury and a broken neck, be still". Well, 'be still' is easy to say when you cannot move your limbs, yet the stillness embraced many levels and the information turned out to be absolutely accurate. The voice also said "Marie, trust, you are safe, all will be well, trust". All was obviously 'not well'; I could not move and I knew I could die, yet a deep knowing enveloped me and I trusted that 'all would be well'. This voice whispered to me as I called out for help; it then became silent as I entered a void, a deep well, where there was no sense of communication. As suddenly as the void came, it went and I was surrounded by whispering in the car and I knew healing angels had heard my prayer.

The Presence, because that is what it was and is, embraced me and I just surrendered. It spoke, humoured, encouraged, stroked, cradled, loved, witnessed me and in its Presence I knew that all who came to help me were healers. There was no doubt that I would heal, no doubt. I trusted this Presence entirely – trusted to the Core of my Being and in return trusted all who came to help. Each carried an energy which gently spoke of love and healing, and all the time I was in the most precarious life or death situation imaginable. Yet I was alert, aware and more present than I have ever been in my life.

I hope this gives you some insight into the powerful presence that accompanied me on my journey into, during and beyond the accident and remains with me to this day. If truth be told, I have always heard it. I accepted it when it was convenient to do so, and rejected and ignored it when I didn't much want to hear what it was saying.

The Healing Voice

I still find myself filtering this voice at times; when I'm critical and castigating myself for being a twit, an idiot, for not fulfilling my high expectations of myself, it speaks, calms and encourages. It loves my glaring faults, it cajoles me, humours me, laughs at my craziness, supports me, directs me, and it always has done so – but I buried it under fear.

The healing voice is the sound of uniqueness. It is not someone else's sound, it is my sound, your sound, our sound. It is the sound that originates at the Source… it is cellular yet beyond that… it is planetary yet beyond that… it is so core that to name it somehow will not capture its essence. Still for the purpose of understanding the healing voice, let's say it is cellular, vibration, resonance. Do you get the feel for it? It is everything, it is life, yet it is beyond that which can be named.

I live with this healing voice, yet even with this internal support there is another aspect to my story; the feelings of isolation, of confusion, of loneliness that accompany a massive trauma. As I began to recover I would share with 'the voice' my feelings; it overwhelmed me with its words of comfort and support. It would say "feel the loneliness, feel it fully, only by visiting will you come to know and understand the message loneliness carries". And as I entered into the feelings I could hear that loneliness has a sound, a frequency that is not easy to hear, yet when tuned into and embraced becomes harmonic. When loneliness is witnessed, it successfully attracts attention and delivers its message; it changes.

My sound, your sound, our sound is a teacher and a messenger. I have discovered that my sound is a love that I can no longer ignore. I have watched those I love try to remain strong to support my recovery; my greatest pain has been the knowledge that my trauma had brought trauma into their lives. As the years have passed, my loved ones have met their own traumas and I find myself supporting them in their isolation, confusion and loneliness. I encourage them to feel the pain and listen deeply to the inner direction and love and to embrace outer support. That's the way life is. It is a dance of inner and outer balance – of give and take, serve and be served, love and be loved, observe and be observed, support and be supported. And as I watch the dance of love, the dance of life, I sing and move and know there is nothing to fear. Yet even with this knowledge, fear plays a part in my life and I know fear is a messenger and has a purpose. Fear is not the problem; it is the fear of fear that paralyses.

I have been to the edge of life and come back with a wise, faithful and honest friend whom I trust completely at my core. I know this sound is also in others and I wonder who else is listening? When the e-mails arrive and the calls come, and people ask "share with me how to heal", all hear the same reply, "You have a friend at your core who loves you completely; even when you feel you cannot love yourself it will love you. Tune in, listen deeply and you will find a beautiful companion waiting to meet you who will accompany you on your journey through life".

People have asked, "how do I meet this companion"? and I ask the inner 'voice'. I hear "It is not necessary to undergo trauma to free me because my Presence, my Sound, is in all".

How wonderful is that?

Now the Presence, the Sound, the Voice that calms and soothes has asked that a structure be named where many can find support in connecting to their healing Presence. I asked "what would this structure be called?" and the reply came "It will be known as 'Sounding Well'".

Over the past five years, since the accident, 'Sounding Well' has grown. The journey from paralysis to movement, from isolation to involvement, from confusion to clarity has led me to where I am today.

My purpose now is to share 'Sounding Well' and I accept the task with great joy in my heart. Through incredible circumstances I have discovered a friend, a beauty beyond words that communicates, guides, loves and ultimately heals. Today I can say that through trust in this guiding Presence I live, move and have my being.


  1. Robyn Morgen said..

    Hello, perhaps you can give me some guidance. My son was pushed by a friend in gym class and crashed into a concrete wall and broke his neck. Thank God there was no paraysis but at 17 he is struggling with the healing process and loss of his senior year activities etc. Any thoughts of how to help him mentally with this process?

  2. Sid said..

    I broke my neck on June 10th of 2012. I crashed during a motocross race and after 33 years of racing you just know when things aren't right as you stop tumbling. I had a sharp pain in the right side of my neck. It felt like a hot knife was stuck in my neck just below my ear. I just knew that I had torn a muscle in my neck. I ever so gently rose to my feet after catching my breath and slowly slide my helmet off and placed my hands inside my neck brace and steadied my head and jus started walking toward the ambulance. Long story short, I broke my C1 and ended up being lifelined to a trama cenetr where I spend the next 10 days or so. It is now about 90 days later and my halo has been off for about 15 days and I start P.T. in about two more weeks. I am super lucky and I have a heavy heart for all those who didn't get as lucky.

  3. Frances said..

    Hallo Robyn, sorry to hear about your son's injuries. Overcome major trauma myself and whilst do not want to share the details, found Norman Vincent Peale's 'The Power Of Positive Thinking' has been a lifeline to me. They also publish a version for younger people:

    Your son may like this book, its a bit marmite, some like it, some don't. Personally I took a while to like Peale's work, and now value it highly. Hope your son recovers well. Thank you.

  4. Katelyn Morgan said..

    That was the Lord who healed you, pure and simple.

  5. Colette Ako said..

    My grandson was attack on his way home by someone with a crowbar this person
    broke his neck Doctors put two screws to stabilize the neck he now wears a neck
    brace. He is 27 years old and face this dilemma with good spirit ,he is in rehab and has some feeling in part of his body . what are the chances of a complete recovery

  6. Wayne said..

    I was in a car wreak and broke my neck had have c-2 thru c-6 fusion. Front and back of my neck 2 different days and operations I have about 26 screws metal plates , straps. This was January 2012. And I'm still trying too feel right. All kinds of pain meds I'm still taking it is just miserable. I don't know if I will ever be right again this SUCK'S WOW

  7. Marie said..

    I wrote this article some years ago and have come to this page and found the comments. I haven't seen them until now, had I read them I would have replied immediately.
    To Robyn, I hope our son is making a good recovery.
    To Sid, I hope your recovery continued and you are strengthened.
    To Frances, great suggestion. Remaining hopeful and positive are super healers.
    To Katelyn, I agree 100%. The Presence, the Voice, is God and that which is Greater.
    Colette, I was so sad to read about your Grandson. The attack itself is a shock and trauma but to also be severly injured with a broken neck is an ongoing shock. I pray and hope your Grandson is well.
    And Wayne, it was early days when you wrote and I wonder how you are? I hope and pray you are well and have strengthened.
    And to all, take heart. I am well and proof that recovery from a broken neck is possible. Love your nerves....they are our messengers.
    One final thing, I am now a choir director. Sounding well has manifest in me standing in front of willing singers, conducting and encouraging. As I watch my hands direct others in song and sound, I am in awe. The dance of my arms which leads and directs the singing is a dance of total beauty and as I watch the flow of movement...I am humbled beyond words. Who would have thought that from total stillness such wonder and beauty would arise.
    Heal well.
    Marie x

  8. Archibald said..

    I too have had neck surgery for a brken neck mine was a car accident as well as being scottish. I was x-rayed and sent home, nine months of complaining to my "doctor" MD I was reffered to a specialist who examined me and had me have an MRI short version c5 c6 fused. The technician asked me after the MRI. When did you break your neck? It must be the Scottish blood nobody told you you were dead so just get on with life the best you can and enjoy each day best you can, life is not that bad when you consider the alternative. Just saying. Hope you fully recover and enjoy the happy times. Archibald, Survivor Ps also have a hole in my l4 l5 disc.

  9. john murphy said..

    hello I broke my neck on the 6th of june 2015 was taken to hospital but was not even x rayed just told it was muscle damage and given paracetamol for the pain,i went to see my gp to get stronger pain killers, the next day and was advised to move my neck as much as possible this went on for four weeks till I went back saw another gp and was sent to another hospital where they took an x ray and a C,T, scan and immediatley put me in a neck brace as I had broken c-2 vertebrae the doctor said I was so lucky that I did not paralyse myself trying to move my neck I now have a neck brace on for at least 8 weeks I just think I am so lucky but cant believe the first hospital did not even x ray me

  10. Gail Hebert said..

    I am 73 year old female that fell and broke my neck. I tripped and fell over something and hit my head against a large tree on June 15th I have been in a neck brace since and will have it on for sure until August 22nd. This has been the hardest thing I have gone through. Any support I could get would be helpful. Thank You!

  11. lynda davies said..

    hello I broke my neck 3 years ago I am now getting that my right hand is going numb at times do you think this could be from the neck break thanks from lynda

  12. Jon VanDuzen said..

    Hi,I was in a motorcycle accident on november11,2018 and broke my neck. I was ambulanced to hospital and a day later when I woke up I was told by surgeons that I broke my c3,c4,c5 and c6. They said I may not be able to walk or use my hands & arms again also there may be other issues such as body function difficulties. I am walking very good,using my hands and arms with about 60% ability,I have all body functions,however with less warning it's time to go. Now get this, on August 24,2017(15 months prior) I was in an auto accident,ran head on into a tree. I ha v screw in ankle,plate in shin from ankle to knee,right arm was smashed now with a bolt and wire to replace my elbow,broke 1 right rib,sternum,4 right ribs,clavicle,2 discs along with 2 punctured lungs. I was flown in and surgeons fixed me up. Now you might be thinking that I am one unlucky man but I am 55 and never broke a bone before and believe me when I say I have never been sick since I was around.6 or 7 years old (hangovers don't count. haha). I have had a great life-football,wrestling,track in high school,Marine Corps and an machinist most of my life. Anyway,I still have spasms and I am scared. All of my enjoyments in life seems to involve my hands. Well,thank you for reading some of my issues,it helps me to just whine a bit but maybe this info can help someone else out there. It's not in my nature to quit,I will never give up and any one out there with these issues I would day-to-day don't let the problems we are having win,we will be stronger in the end of we don't give up. Thank you.

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