Caitlin Jensen's back hurt. Then her heart stopped.
The Georgia Southern University student had just graduated, her eyes set to the future and all of its possibilities, when she decided to start her first summer free from the shackles of school by having her back adjusted.
On 16 June, she visited a chiropractor and booked a basic adjustment. They tweaked her neck, and shortly after Ms Jensen began to feel ill.
Her condition deteriorated quickly — enough to alarm those around her and prompt a 911 call.
Ms Jensen was rushed to the hospital, where doctors found that her neck adjustment has dissected four arteries.
When arteries are dissected, blood can pool near the tears and form hematomas. Those hematomas can block further blood flow, resulting in cardiac arrest and potentially death.
Ms Jensen suffered from both cardiac arrest and a stroke. Her heart stopped beating, leaving her at the edge of death for nearly 10 minutes before she was resuscitated.
Doctors worked to stabilise the college student and then rushed her into surgery. They were able to bring her back from the brink before surgeons got to work to repair the dissected arteries, closing up tears and sucking out pooling fluid in Ms Jensen's neck. One of the arteries was equipped with a stent to prevent it from collapsing back in on itself.
Since the operation, Ms Jensen has been lying in recovery at the neuro ICU in Memorial Hospital in Savannah, Georgia. Her family has shared her story on GoFundMe and hopes to raise funds for her healthcare.
Though Ms Jensen survived her heart stopping for nearly 10 minutes, that much time without blood pumping to the brain can cause the organ catastrophic damage. Much of her body is paralysed, though she is awake and has responded to verbal commands by wiggling her toes and blinking her eyes.
Ms Jensen's mother Darlene has been documenting her daughter's recovery on the GoFundMe and on Facebook. She said on Saturday that her daughter managed to give her a smile.
“She gave her best effort to smile today, and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” she wrote. “Her face doesn’t move very much yet, but she can open her eyes widely to show surprise, and the left corner of her mouth tries to smile. Adorable."
Ms Jensen's mother said her left-side movement — mostly wiggling and flexing — has been progressing, but her right side has shown no improvement since her injury.
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