SMITHVILLE, Mo. - A fun day sledding outdoors ended with a fractured spine for a Missouri teen. Now her family says they want her accident to be a lesson to others who want to enjoy the snowy outdoors.
When the cold weather isn't biting through your layers of clothes, these can be the delightful sounds of winter. But the sounds of laughter tumbling down the hills of Waterworks Park turned into painful screams for Audrie Derfler over the weekend.
"I felt something hit the bottom of the sled and I remember landing on something and for a little while I couldn't feel my legs," said Audrie.
Only one day after her 18th birthday Audrie fractured her spine after she hit a rock sledding down a hill in the northland.
"The only thing that went through my mind is, 'Oh my gosh, I'm paralyzed,'" she said.
Doctors rushed her into surgery to make sure she had a chance to walk again.
"A few more millimeters either way and she could have had a disastrous neurological injury," said Dr. Paul Arnold with the University of Kansas Hospital.
It was a mother's worst nightmare.
"I did the best to not cry and just tell her that everything is gonna be ok, and she was laying on the gurney and just saying it hurts so bad, it hurt to breathe, it hurt to move. She was still in awful, awful pain," said her mother, Rebecca Edwards.
Doctors say sledding accidents can be common during the winter. They warn people to stay away from extremely steep hills and make sure the hill is free from obstacles, such as rock, trees, or fences. And always face forward on your sled, never slide down a hill backwards.
"Videotaping her walking this morning, it's like watching her take her first steps again as a child," said Rebecca.
While Audrie makes her recovery her family hopes this will serve as lesson to families and children about the dangers of winter rides down snowy hills.