Woman overcomes spine injury, takes on triathlons - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Woman overcomes spine injury, takes on triathlons

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

She was one her way to work one minute and being rushed to the hospital the next, headed into surgery. It was an accident that changed Lori Culberson's life forever but was it changed for better or worse?   

Culberson was inspired to start doing triathlons seven years ago. At 41 years old, she has quite a few under her belt. 

"Maybe three, four a year. Good heavens, it can't be that many.  Maybe 20," counts Culberson.  An accident last September threatened to take away the school teacher's life as she knew it. 

"I just remember screaming," says Culberson. She was driving to work when an ambulance changed lanes and slammed into her car.

"And I felt this pain in my head and my neck," describes Culberson. She was rushed to the hospital where she thought she had whiplash. 

"When they said my neck was broken that's about when I lost it," recounts Culberson with tears in her eyes.

"Two of the bones in her neck completely dislocated themselves from each other," explains Dr. Geoffrey Zubay, a Neurosurgeon at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital. 

Culberson remembers she had once question for her doctor.

"Will I be able to run again?," asked Culberson. Dr. Zubay did not even know if she would ever walk again. 

"Any haphazard movements of the neck at that point could cause it to move just a millimeter too far in the wrong direction and that could cause her to lose all the functions in her arms and legs," explains the doctor. He says that is why it can be so dangerous to move car accident victims.

Dr. Zubay has seen it before. Most of the people, up to 80 percent, who suffer this injury are left paralyzed.

"We had to do surgery from both the front and the back of her neck to reconstruct the stability of her spine, placing small screws and rods inside," says Dr. Zubay.

Amazingly, Culberson beat the odds. Before long, she was right back at it - biking, swimming and running. 

"The next phone call I got was can I go skydiving?" laughs Dr. Zubay.  

Seriously? Skydiving? In the 8 months since the accident, this school teacher has learned a thing or two about second chances. So Culberson decided since she was given what she calls a major second chance she was going to make life adventurous and make every second count.  So she came up with a bucket list. 

"I did come up with a bucket list. How cool would it be to do an adventure race or an endurance race on every continent? I want to do Ironman Abu Dhabi," says Culberson. That hasn't yet been checked off the list but "Skydiving has a big check mark next to it. That one's done," smiles Culberson. 

How was it? "Terrifying. Terrifying. It's off the list. I'm done," laughs Culberson. She has already competed in her first triathlon since her accident. She is training for another and she just signed up to compete in Ironman Brazil. It was actually a woman she saw on TV back in 2005 who inspired Culberson to start triathlons. She hopes her story will be that inspiration you need. 

"Be fearless. If there's something on your bucket list or something you even think you want to do, try it. What's the worst thing that can happen? You fail. Try it again," encourages Culberson.

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