Woman reclaims life after suffering spinal cord injury in Lake Minnetonka

A weekend at the lake seems like it's just part of life for most Minnesotans, but for one woman some fun in the sun turned into her worst nightmare.

A dive off a boat into Lake Minnetonka changed everything for Amanda Poppy of Victoria when she suffered a serious spinal injury. Now unable to walk, Amanda’s tremendous spirit and mental toughness inspires her family and rehab doctors.

It was July 5th, and Amanda Poppy was at her favorite place on the planet - Lake Minnetonka. A self-proclaimed water baby, she dove into the water like she had done since a child.

"Whether I hit my head on the bottom or it just wasn’t a clean dive—I’m not sure, to be honest. But, I just remember surfacing to the water and my friends were at the end of the boat and they were like, ‘are you ok?’ and I just said, ‘no, help me,’” Amanda said.

Thankfully, Amanda's friends were able to get her out of the water safely and water patrol was on scene immediately.

She woke up later at the hospital unable to move her lower body.

“You’re lying there and you’ve just heard all these horrible things and you have a choice. For me, I knew I had a choice to make—either I can fight this head-on and I can start proving everybody wrong, or you can go down a deep path and just feel sorry for yourself,” Amanda said.

Doctors were straight with Amanda and her husband Josh--there's a chance she may never walk again after dislocating her C4 and C5 vertebrae, which are responsible for breathing and major body movements.

“I think it was day three I just told myself I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do whatever it takes,” she said.

Now, day by day, Amanda is working to regain her strength.

Therapists at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute push her a little further each session.

"Amanda has made huge gains on her postural control and sitting up--giving her access to her environment, being able to reach forward," said occupational therapist Laura Newman.

Just recently she achieved a small victory: she was able to hold a toothbrush in her hands and brush her teeth.

"We weren't sure if I would ever get here, just to have the therapists push me and motivate me and friends and family--it's a really great feeling," she said.

Josh has been with Amanda every step of the way, taking care of their two young children while managing everything at home.

But every day he wonders about the future.

“Is she going to walk? Is she going to walk un-assisted, what do we do with the house?  
How soon do we do it? Should we do anything?” he asked.

Amanda has her dark moments, too, when she's alone in her room away from her family, wondering if she'll ever get out of the wheelchair. But then she looks at pictures and inspiring quotes surrounding her.

“I’ve got a lot to live for and a lot to look forward to," she said.

Josh said the outpouring of love and support from their family, friends and even strangers keeps them going.

“How do you say thank you to everybody…to live and work in a community that Amanda and I do, they’ve really rallied around us.”

Amanda said if you take anything away from her story, she wants people to not take life for granted, to appreciate the mundane and the routine.

“You think that you’re invincible and this dive that I’ve done a 1,000 times in my life—what’s a 1001 times that it’s going to matter, and it does and it changes everything,” she said.

Practice does make progress. Just a few days ago, Amanda wiggled her toes--a sign that her brain is reconnecting with her body. If she continues down this path she hopes to be home in time for Christmas.