A 22-year-old woman who was nearly killed in a car crash two years ago is speaking out about the horrific incident and her grueling recovery process.
Gina Arnold, of Macomb, Mich., was driving home from work in the rain in October 2017 when she lost control of her vehicle and flipped over seven times before slamming into a tree, she told Inside Edition.
Although the Northern Michigan University student was saved by her seatbelt, the life-saving device caused her permanent injuries when it sliced deeply through her stomach.
"It cut my whole abdominal wall like a sword," she recalled.
Following the "freak accident," in which Arnold suffered several broken bones and lacerations, she was rushed to the hospital, where she remained in a coma for three days, People reports.
She has since undergone 21 surgeries, including one on Dec. 3, 2018, in which surgeons at Beaumont Hospital placed mesh where Arnold's abdominal wall used to be during a rare, eight-hour procedure.
Photos from her recovery:
Woman's seatbelt cut through stomach during crash
Woman's seatbelt cut through stomach during crash
Sensitive Content Warning
Happy Tuesday everyone ! I would like to take this Tuesday and talk about mental health . The first photo u see is me after a bad car accident in October of last year . I was fighting for my life and it was the first time I learned how short life really can be . The second photo is me smiling now because I have overcome so much, i have proved myself and doctors wrong and that is something to smile about . But in between these two photos was depression , tears , wanting to give up and being at my lowest low . Nobody tells you how to get up when you’ve been knocked down one too many times . And nobody tells you how to deal with over 17 surgeries and being told I might not walk again and I won’t ever have kids and being told your whole abdominal wall tore from the seatbelt and we can’t repair it and we don’t know what your quality of life is going to be without it. It’s scary and I was scared out of my mind. But everyday I picked myself up and I kept on going and yeah there were days I bitched about it and I wanted to give up but I am glad I didn’t . Because I am able to walk , and yeah I still have a lot of work to do but I take it day by day. And I go to a psychiatrist and I say this because I want to let it be known that it is okay to talk about your problems and it is okay to get help if you need it . I have spent my life thinking I had to deal with everything on my own but after this I have realized it is okay to ask my friends , family and outside sources for help . Yes I still have my bad days and my bumps in the road . But I keep going and I take it day by day . Oh and that 3rd photo is my scar to remind of all the things I have lived through and the moments that almost killed me . And the moments that made me who I am today . Stay strong #motivation #scars#mentalhealth#awareness#survival#itsokaytonotbeokay#caraccident#depression#beinghappy#livingwithoutanabdomen#mentalhealthawareness#scars#depression#strong#gymshark#behappy#itsagreatdaytobealive#hdeu#ellendegeneres
The first picture : my stomach when there is completely no swelling and I am having a good week. The second picture : is when I eat something wrong, hit my stomach on something , sleep wrong or when my intestines get stuck . I am not sharing this for sympathy I am sharing this to show what I go through on a day to day basis . Pictures on Instagram of me smiling and happy is me fighting through this in the most positive way I can . This shows that even though someone’s life might seem “picture” perfect on social media behind those pictures people might be fighting battles u don’t know about . Behind my pictures is depression , ptsd , scared and extremely self conscious about my stomach because it’s so disproportionated from no abdomen and hernias that I can’t even wear jeans !!! But I don’t look at the negatives even though somedays you can be constantly reminded of every negative thing. At the end of the day despite what kind of day it was I thank god for giving me a second chance on this earth and giving me the opportunity to accomplish all my goals in life 💛🧠 remember it’s okay to not be okay 💛😘 #depression#scar #scarsarebeautiful #ptsd#mentalhealth #itsokaynottobeokay #scarstories #scarstoyourbeautiful #noabdomen #caraccidentsurvivor #survivor #strong #anxiety #mystory #selfcare #selflove
A year ago today my life forever changed from a car accident . At this point last year I was in a coma fighting for my life . I’m in a world of emotions today but one that I am feeling most is THANKFUL. Through the trials and tribulations I came out stronger and grateful for every second of life god has blessed me with . One year - over 17 surgeries , learning to walk again , lost an abdominal wall (who needs one right?🤷🏽♀️) , and proved doctors wrong along the way . But this accident wasn’t just about me it affected my family and friends and that’s what hurts most about all of this . They were so strong for me especially when I couldn’t be strong and I doubted myself they were all there to remind me what i am capable of ,and I am so grateful for such an amazing support system and the endless love I have gotten from everyone ! Seeing my grandma cry when she seen me walk on my own and seeing my parents so scared for what my future held and despite being so scared they stayed strong for me and reminded me not to give up even when I wanted too . Yeah there are my bad days of course some times I get into such a bad place . Depression and ptsd is such a hard battle and something I am still battling every single day because of this . I have fallen and used unhealthy coping mechanisms to stop the flashbacks and nightmares, I had to learn healthy coping methods and I have NO SHAME in telling u guys that I have not always handled this the best way because I am NOT perfect and never will be there is no manual how to deal with things greater than yourself , but god helps me through it and he gives me the strength because I survived ! I can say I am literally the only person in the country without an abdominal wall and I am surviving and I am doing good ! I am blessed for the second opportunity I have been given in life and I plan on taking full advantage of it !!! One more surgery and then the world cannot stop me ❤️💃🏽 #ptsd #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #ptsdawareness #survivor#caraccidentsurvivor #icandothis#newday#god #isurvived
Transformation Tuesday: the first picture was first day home from the hospital (and 20 surgeries later). There were two huge chunks of skin taken out from the seatbelt and where my journey began . Second picture: what my stomach looked like most of 2018, it got worse overtime because my organs had no structure so it would distend my stomach real big . (5 total hernias since I had no abdominal muscles except two thin strips on each side)Couldn’t fit into ANY pair of jeans cause I was so odd shaped it was frustrating. 3rd picture was a week after my surgery in December (surgery 22 and hopefully last for a while). After FINALLY getting all (4) drains got taken out of my stomach I developed a seroma and needed a new one. The last picture there is still swelling here and there but that is my new before picture this 2019! I start PT next week and then plan on getting a personal trainer because I want to make myself the best version possible I can be. I will no longer complain during a training session, I will thrive off pain, I will take time for myself and I’m gonna kick ass this year I know it !!!! These past weeks since my surgery, I haven’t been myself, and been feeling guilt and at a stand still with my life but I’m starting to realize this is my opportunity to become better than I ever have. Doctors have told me everything u could think of from being told I can’t do something or my life isn’t looking to bright with lots of pain and low quality of life . I will continue to prove them wrong. Ik what I am capable of and nobody can ever tell me I can’t do something because everyday I will continue again and again say “watch me” 🙏🏽 let’s see what this badass is capable of without an abdomen (only case like this in the country )#caraccident #herniarecovery#herniasurgery #transformationtuesday #recovery#learnedtowalkagain#surgeries#askquestions#ptsd#depression#surgery
The one key of advice I can give after almost two years of recovery . IF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT WHERE YOU WANT IT TO BE.THEN NOTHING IN YOUR LIFE WILL BE HOW YOU WANT IT TO BE !!! This recovery was honestly the hardest thing I ever had to deal with. In the beginning my mental health was not where it needed to be. I complained , I asked “why me” and bitched about my situation all the time ! The day I started to change my mindset and attitude , and realizing that god could’ve easily chose that it was my time that day. But he seen potential in me to give me a second chance . And I’m not gonna let him down or myself down ! Waking up everyday just sitting outside for a minute and closing your eyes and thanking god for another day on this beautiful earth, was enough for me to lose the weight I needed too , was enough for me to take on everyday like it was my last !! If everyday is feeling like a chore, work on your mental health . When that falls into place, everything just falls with it 💛💛 #mentalhealthawareness#ptsd#caraccident#scarstoyourbeautiful #behindthescars #mystory#recovery#noabdomen#mentalhealth
Surgery #21 in the books ✅ this ones going to be a fast recovery . Especially because it was on my neck and not my stomach this time! (Thank god😅) was tired most of today just cause of anesthesia and obviously gonna take it easy tomorrow but after that should be good and take it day by day like always !!😊😊 becoming a pro at this whole surgery thing 🙃💛 #surgery#ptsd#boabdomen
“Every experience we go through in life, molds us into the person we are today. Scars are stitches in our fabric of character, they show whatever we have been through, we have learnt and grown from. Know you will rise again.” Backstory of why I chose to put glitter on my scars , for a while I was extremely self conscious of my scars . And noticed that society assumes u are going to cover up your scars , like they are something to be ashamed of. Putting glitter on my scars was to show u shouldn’t be afraid to show off your scars ! And show them off like they are tattoos ! You are beautiful with scars and all !!! And thank you to @alexafailla for doing my makeup and making my vision possible and for @gillianharrisphotography for getting these beautiful pictures 💛💛💛💛 also check out my full story on Insider Edition tomorrow 4:30(my time) or on Daily Mail US or UK 😍#calvinklein#behindyourscars #bodypositivity#ellendegeneres #insideedition#scars
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After intense physical therapy, Arnold says, she is able to walk again and accomplish tasks she thought would be impossible, like kick a soccer ball. She remains limited in her abilities, however, and remains unable to lift over 15 lbs. or stand for long periods of time. Because of this, she had to give up her aspirations of becoming a nurse.
Though Arnold is "grateful that [the seatbelt] saved my life," she says the chronic pain and issues she's had to deal with since the accident took her by surprise.
"When I left the hospital ... I wasn’t expecting to be in constant pain every single day," Arnold told People. "It was really frustrating being a 21-year-old and not being able to do the things a 21-year-old could do. I had the energy of a 90-year-old. I definitely had my days when I was extremely down. But I went to therapy and I kept reminding myself, 'I'm alive, something good is going to come out of this.' I tried to keep my spirits up."