A Brazilian fitness fanatic was left paralysed from the neck down after falling on her head while attempting an ‘inverted’ sit-up at the gym.
Marcelle Mancuso, 23, broke a vertebrae after she slipped off a bench while performing the exercise.
Doctors starkly warned that she would be a tetraplegic for life and fitted a titanium plate into her spine, held by six screws.
But after months of extensive physiotherapy, she eventually defied the odds and regained movement.
Now, she is back at the gym and has even started doing the very exercise that caused her initial injury.
‘It was just another normal day of training. I went to perform the abdominal inverted sit up, and was upside down’, Marcelle said.
‘I was attached to the equipment with a strip, which broke and the personal trainer could not hold me. I hit the back of my head on the floor, and immediately lost all body movements with the blow.
‘My diagnosis was tetraplegia – no movement in my arms or legs.
‘The doctors did not know if I would walk again or if I would stay on a bed forever.’
Describing her recovery, Marcelle said: ‘I gave my best every day in physical therapy. I thought if my movements did not come back it would not be my fault, it would be destiny.
‘I was willing to fight until the last minute. Gradually my movement came back.
‘The doctors were surprised by my recovery.
‘One day when I was in the doctor’s office thanking the doctor who operated on me, he said: “Do not thank me, thank the guy from the top – this is his work” – meaning God.’
Marcelle – who does bodybuilding, running and Muay Thai – injured her neck while doing a training session at a gym in Sao Jose do Rio Preto, Brazil, in January 2016.
An inverted sit-up involves performing an abdominal crunch on a gym bench which is raised at the end.
The injury saw her breaking the fifth vertebrae in the neck section of her spine, as well as knocking another one out of place and squashing a third which compressed her spinal cord.
‘I lost all the movements from the neck down when I hit my head on the floor,’ she recalled.
‘I could move my eyes. I had to keep calm and began to pray.’
After her extensive recovery, she was able to walk again a mere six months later.
‘It sometimes feels like it was a nightmare I have woken up from,’ she said.