Smithville teen breaks back in sledding accident

SMITHVILLE, Mo. - A fun day in the snow turned into a disastrous winter ride for a young girl in the Northland.

"I felt something hit the bottom of the sled and I remember landing on something and for a little while I couldn't feel my legs," Audrie Derfler said.

Only one day after her 18th birthday, Audrie fractured her spine after she hit a rock sledding down a hill.

"The only thing that went through my mind is that, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m paralyzed,’" she said.

Doctors rushed her into surgery to make sure she had a chance to walk again.

"A few more millimeters either way and she could've had a disastrous neurological injury," Dr. Paul Arnold with the University of Kansas Hospital said.

It was a mother’s worst nightmare.

"I did the best to not cry and just tell her that everything is going to be okay and she was laying on the gurney and just saying it hurt so bad, it hurt to breathe, it hurt to move. She was just still in awful, awful pain," her mother Rebecca Edwards said.

While Audrie makes her recovery, her family hopes this will serve as a lesson to families and children about the dangers of winter rides down snowy hills.

"I'm glad that we are able to tell this story because even though it's been very hard for us, it's still a better ending then whatever could've happened. She's walking away and that is the best thing to me," Audrie’s mother said.

Doctors say sledding accidents can be common during the winter and warn people to stay away from extremely steep hills.

When sledding, make sure the hill is free of obstacles like rocks, trees or fences. Always face forward on your sled and never slide down a hill backward.

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