A teenage girl who narrowly escaped death after a car surfing accident left her with a severely fractured skull is warning others against the dangerous pastime.
High school sophomore Hannah Huntoon, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, has learned how to walk and talk again after the near fatal accident at the end of April but still has to sport a helmet to protect her brain.
After three weeks of unconsciousness, the 16-year-old has spoken of the day that changed her life forever.
Life changing: Hannah Huntoon was a keen dancer and cheerleader, left, before the accident which left her having to wear a helmet to protect her brain, right
‘My life before the accident was fun,’ Hannah said in an interview with TODAY. ‘I would be out all the time, always exercising and dancing. Now I can’t really do a lot of that. Everything’s more difficult. It hurts to be alive.’
The student repeated advice she has already shared with friends and visitors to her hospital room: ‘Don't do it. Don't car surf. Be in the car safe. It's bad, scary just to think about it,’ she told the Associated Press.
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On that fateful day, Hannah and three friends attempted a stunt that emergency room doctors say they are becoming far too familiar with.
She stood on the trunk of a Toyota Corolla while a friend planted herself on the hood. 'We didn’t think it would be dangerous,' Hannah told TODAY.
Struggle: Hannah has learned how to walk and talk again but still has to sport a helmet to protect her brain after the near fatal accident at the end of April
Happy: The teen, pictured with her mother Constance, left, said her life before the accident was fun, full of exercise and dance
Recovery: After three weeks on unconsciousness, Hannah was woken up from an induced coma at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach
But, one turn later, Hannah was thrown off the vehicle, landing on her head.
'We got to the hospital and they pulled us in to show us the skull fracture,' her mother Constance Huntoon told the show. 'It was cracked completely through.'
'She had one foot in the threshold of death's door,' Dr. Craig Lichtblau, director of the inpatient rehabilitation unit at St. Mary's Medical Center, said.
The teen was put into an induced coma and had to have two hand-sized pieces of her skull removed to give her brain room to swell without being confined. The operation is said to have saved her life.
Constance Huntoon breathed a sigh of relief when her daughter finally breathed without a ventilator.
'On Mother’s Day I got my wish, the mother told TODAY. 'They removed the vent. She continued breathing and every day, she came out of the coma a little bit more.'
Car surfing: Hannah and three friends attempted a stunt that emergency room doctors say they are becoming far too familiar with
Sit of accident: The spot where Hannah was flung to the ground has been marked by a red heart
Fatal accident: In 2008 Cameron Bieberle, 18, of Florida, lost his life to a car surfing accident. 'It's destroyed our life,' Darda Bieberle, his father said
'"Hi Mommy, I love you." I think that was the first thing I said,' Hannah recalled .
Doctors say the girl's recovery is remarkable. A lot of credit goes to Hannah herself, a lifelong dancer and member of the Palm Beach Gardens High School Gatorettes.
She will be returning to the hospital in about three months, when surgeons will retrieve the parts of her skull from cold storage and return them to their protective position around her recovered brain.
Constance Huntoon and her family are hoping their daughter's story will prevent any further tragedies from occurring.
'We will teach and educate parents and children that car surfing is a stupid choice and drivers need to take the responsibility to not drive when their friends want to make a dumb choice,' she told TODAY.
In 2008 Cameron Bieberle, 18, of Florida, lost his life to a car surfing accident. 'It’s destroyed our life,' Darda Bieberle, Cameron’s father, told TODAY last year.
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