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Ex-spokesperson for NYC mayor recalls devastating treadmill accident

NEW YORK -- Imagine having it all and losing it in a split second.

That's what happened to Karen Hinton. She had a high-profile career, but a devastating accident changed everything.

Hinton and her husband sat down with CBS New York for an exclusive interview to talk about their life now, and issue a warning about treadmill trauma.

"I can't really remember it. I try to remember it, but I haven't. Maybe I will one day," she said.

Hinton stepped on a treadmill in April and can't remember a thing about what happened next.

"Was I tired, did I faint, did I have a seizure, or did I just trip on my shoes? We don't know, we just don't know," she said.

What is known is that Hinton was going fast enough to be catapulted backwards, slamming her head on the floor with such force that doctors had to put her in a medically induced coma and removed part of her skull to relieve pressure from the swelling of her brain.

"When I see photographs of my brain dipped down like this because the skulls out, I think, 'Oh my goodness, that looks horrific, this is terrible, how did I survive?'" she said.

Karen Hinton as she recovered after an accident. CBS New York

It was a shocking accident. Once Mayor Bill de Blasio's spokesperson, Hinton was a seasoned political pro, comfortable in the spotlight and respected by her peers.

After her fall she had to learn to talk and walk again, not fully understanding how she got there.

"Wham my life is very different now," she said.

It led to some scary moments for her husband Howard as well.

"You try to push that fear in the back of your mind. They prepare you for anything and you, you know what they're saying is your wife might not be the same person at the end of this process," he said.

Hinton has defied the odds, though sometimes struggles to find the right words.

"What do you call the thing that goes like that, the elliptical," she said.

Through cognitive and physical therapy, she's stronger with each passing day. She also hasn't lost her political savvy, either.

"I can see myself doing that again someday," she said.

She also wants to warn others about treadmill safety. There were 65,000 injuries reported last year from minor mishaps to major trauma like hers.

"If I knew then what I know now about treadmills, I would never have gotten on that treadmill," she said.

Her husband said gyms can do a better job of making the area around the treadmills safer.

In Hinton's situation the treadmill was placed on a hard floor with no mat around it. A one inch soft mat around the treadmill could have reduced the severity of her injury, he explained.

An injury that cost some of her memory, but won't prevent her from making new ones.

"I just want to reach people now. It's different than it used to be, and I actually think it's for the better," she said.

Hinton is now working at a New York communications firm.

She credits both her excellent medical care and the support of family and friends for her remarkable recovery.

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