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22-Year-Old Woman Survives Freak Seatbelt Accident That Sliced Stomach In Half

Photo: Gina Arnold / Caters
Who Is Gina Arnold? 22-Year-Old Woman Who Survived Freak Seatbelt Accident Slicing Stomach In Half

When we get in a car, we immediately buckle ourselves in, believing our seat belts will prevent serious injury should we get into a car accident. And though seat belts save more than 15,000 lives each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sometimes you cannot control the unpredictable.

Who is Gina Arnold? The 22-year-old woman is lucky to be alive after she got into a car accident, where her seatbelt sliced deep into her stomach.

In October 2017, the Michigan woman was driving home from work, in the rain, when she lost control of the car, which flipped seven times. The seat belt sliced through her abdomen, saving her life but leaving her with extensive internal injuries. 

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Arnold remained in a coma for three days after the accident, and had broken bones and giant lacerations. She also had to learn to walk again, had no abdominal wall, has had 21 surgeries, and stayed in recovery for more than a year. 

Photo: Gina Arnold

In an interview with People, Arnold recalled the impact of her accident:

“I was grateful that it saved my life, but it was hard to wrap my head around all the injuries the seat belt caused. I just call it a freak accident. I can’t believe the seat belt did that to me. When I left the hospital, I wasn’t expecting to be in constant pain every single day. 

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.”

She also revealed how extensive the injuries were, adding:

“[The doctors] described my abdominal wall being cut like a sword by the seat belt. Even though it [the seat belt] did save my life, it caused many life-threatening injuries and tore my whole abdominal wall right in half...

Both lungs collapsed and my whole body was so swollen they couldn’t see for weeks what kind of broken bones I had. I had multiple emergency surgeries to stabilize me. They had to remove part of my small intestine and part of my ileum.”

Over a year later, in December 2018, surgeons performed a rare surgery to place mesh where her abdominal wall used to be, protecting her organs. 

Photo: Gina Arnold

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But the surgery is complicated:

“There is no plan B for if my mesh does tear. If my mesh tears, they don’t know what do after that. Then I’ll be left with no abdominal wall again. It would tear the remaining muscles I have and that would be extremely painful. So I have to be extremely careful every day. This is my one mesh and I don’t have another one. This was the first time [the surgeons] have done something like this.”

Where we expect normal 22-year-olds to be going out with friends, relaxing, and living an easy-going lifestyle, things are certainly different for Arnold, who is still challenging herself everyday.

She can no longer stand for extended periods of time, had to change the way she eats, and had to put her dreams of becoming a nurse on hold. She is, however, going back to school:

“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. 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...

I was an athlete before this accident and it’s something I’ll never do again. I want to teach students that you never know the last time you’re gonna play, so take advantage of the sport that you’re in.”

Photo: Gina Arnold/Caters

Though she’s had to change her entire lifestyle, she’s still grateful to be alive. And yes, she wears her seat belt, though she added a pillow for a short 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. 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.”

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.