Watch CBS News

Mother Paralyzed After Hammock Pulls Down Rotted Tree

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A central Minnesota woman is fighting for her life after a freak accident left her nearly paralyzed.

Alyssa Pfannenstein, 25, was sitting in a hammock with her boyfriend Justin Janssen over Labor Day weekend, when one of the 15-foot birch trees it was attached to came crashing down on top of her.

She broke her neck and has months of recovery ahead of her, but her spirit is far from broken.

"People do it all the time, we've done it all the time, we are very adventurous," Janssen said. "We didn't expect something like this."

Watching her 4-year-old daughter play in a park near Bemidji, Pfannenstein and Janssen set up their hammock between two large birch trees. They had no idea one tree was rotten from the inside.

"All of the sudden this big boom hit me in the back of the head," Pfannenstein said.

"It was surreal. At the moment, there was not even time to panic because it happened so quickly," Janssen said.

Pfannenstein's neck was broken and she found herself unable to move, but she still found the strength to comfort her loved ones.

"Her calmness calmed me and her daughter down and made us understand everything would be OK," Janssen said.

Her attitude hasn't changed over the last 12 days at Hennepin County Medical Center. That attitude is a big part of the reason doctors see Alyssa is already making progress, able to feel touch and praying she will make a full recovery.

"We just want to appreciate every miracle," Janssen said. "Accidents happen and we will get through this like anything else."

Pfannenstein will soon enter a rehab facility to work on regaining mobility and strength.

The family has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for her ongoing medical expenses.

It can be hard to spot a rotten tree. Some signs are branches with no leaves, damaged roots or fungus.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.