MACOMB, Mich. — A 22-year-old Michigan woman aspires to help other people recover from serious injuries after undergoing a long recovery process herself after a car accident.
In October 2017, Gina Arnold was driving home from work in the rain when she lost control of her vehicle and it flipped over seven times, according to PEOPLE. Although her seat belt saved her life, it also sliced through her abdomen and left her with injuries doctors in Michigan hadn’t seen before.
Following the accident, Arnold was in a coma for three days, suffered several broken bones and huge lacerations and was left with no abdominal wall to protect her major organs. She was reportedly in recovery for more than a year, underwent 21 surgeries and even had to learn to walk again.
In December 2018, surgeons performed a rare, eight-hour surgery on Arnold in which they placed mesh where her abdominal wall used to be.
Arnold says she’s just now beginning to have a sense of normalcy in her life. She had to give up her dream of becoming a nurse because she can’t stand for long periods of time, is unable to lift more than 15 lbs. and had to change her eating habits because of her condition.
“I’m finally going back to college at [Northern Michigan University], so I’ll finally be able to live away from home without constant medical care,” Arnold told PEOPLE. “I’m learning what I can and cannot do. My body is using all those other muscles besides my abdominals, so my body gets worn out quicker.”
She now aspires to become a sports psychologist and hopes to help athletes prevent and deal with serious injuries.
Arnold also told the magazine that she’s begun driving short distances again, and though it caused her this serious injury, she always wears her seat belt.
“I wear it all the time. For a while I put a pillow in between the seat belt and my stomach because the seat belt just gave me a weird feeling. It made me anxious,” she reportedly said. “It took a lot to be able to not use the pillows anymore, and get used to the seat belt. But I do believe that without it, I wouldn’t be here today. So despite all my injuries — yeah, it’s a freak accident — but I can’t take away the fact that it did save my life and I am here today to tell my story.”