Knightdale bride paralyzed before wedding

Posted February 22, 2011 8:53 p.m. EST
Updated February 24, 2011 11:31 a.m. EST

— Just before her wedding, a Knightdale woman was paralyzed in a freak accident when one of her bridesmaids shoved her in a pool.

"I went in awkwardly and actually hit my head on the bottom," Rachelle Friedman said Tuesday. "I instantly knew something was kind of wrong." 

Friedman, 25, crushed the sixth vertebra in her neck and was left paralyzed from the chest down, just a month before her June wedding.

Friedman said it was her best friend who pushed her into the pool during her bachelorette party. 

"She is and always will be my best friend," Friedman said. 

The accident has left the friends leaning on each other. 

"I'm rehabilitating physically and she's rehabilitating emotionally, and we're there for each other," Friedman said. 

Chris Chapman said he has never had any animosity towards the woman who pushed his fiancee into the pool.

"I've pushed people all the time, just playing around, and sometimes accidents just happen," he said. 

The couple said the accident brought them closer together, but their needs changed overnight. 

"This house, as soon as I got out of rehab, had carpet everywhere. So, we had to rip that up and take all of our savings and put hardwood flooring down, so I could roll around easier," the wheelchair-bound Friedman said. 

The house no longer suited them, but they weren't in a position financially or emotionally to do anything about it.

"She needed enough room to be able to turn. The hallway was too tight," Chapman said. 

The Wake County Homebuilders Association heard about the couple's problem and took on a massive remodeling project on their home. Walls were moved, doorways widened and an elevator was installed.

"Each one of us volunteered to be in charge of something," contractor Lewis Sadler said. 

With an army of subcontractors, volunteers and donated materials, crews finished in 11 days.  

"They never met me in my life, but they're out here sweating blood, putting my house together, just because they want to help, just because they know my story, and they're inspired by it," Friedman said. "That means so much to me." 

As a recreation management major at East Carolina University, Friedman took classes on recreation for people with disabilities. She now plays wheelchair rugby.