Jaime Carnucci made herself a promise after checking into Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital: She was going to walk out.

It took two months of relentless work with therapists who pushed her for up to 12 hours a day, but Carnucci made good on her promise.

On Oct. 22, she rose from the wheelchair she’d been confined to since jumping off a dock and breaking her neck in August. Arm-in-arm with her husband, Frank Carnucci, she shuffled out the hospital’s front door.

“It really hit us as we pulled away from the parking lot that she had done it, and tears flowed,” Frank Carnucci wrote on his Facebook page later that day. “I am SO incredibly proud of this beautiful and courageous woman!”

Jaime Carnucci’s effort spawned a support network of hundreds. The battle is not over, but she continues to improve.

“I feel really well,” Jaime Carnucci said last week in a telephone interview. “Things are progressing really well. I’m getting stronger every day. Things are getting easier.”

Carnucci, 37, is a 1995 graduate of Winthrop High School where she was a three-sport athlete – field hockey, basketball and track and field. Former Winthrop basketball coach Ray Convery earlier this year recalled a strong-willed, determined player who did what was necessary to help her team win.

“All she wants to do is get home and take care of her children,” Convery said in October. “Knowing Jaime, if it can be done, with her determination she’ll do it.”


Jaime Carnucci’s battle began Aug. 2 at a camp near the Hooksett, New Hampshire, home the couple shares with their two children, 12-year-old Nico and 9-year-old Aysa. The couple sent their children to their grandparents so they could spend the weekend with friends at the camp.

Carnucci and some friends went for a late night swim at a lake near the camp. She knew the water off the dock was shallow, so she had always been careful to keep her head and neck away from the bottom. This time, however, Carnucci grabbed a friend’s hand and they jumped in together. The momentum tossed Carnucci into the water head first at a steep angle.

“It was just a freaky accident,” said her mom, Charle Clark of Winthrop.

A CAT scan showed a complete fracture of the C5 vertebrae in Carnucci’s neck. The fragments put pressure on the spinal cord but did not sever it, leaving Carnucci hope for recovery. Carnucci had surgery that evening and by the next morning could move her right leg. There has been slow but steady improvement since.

“She’s just been getting stronger,” Frank Carnucci said last week. “Everything that could move is moving better and getting stronger.”

Carnucci has seen the most progress in her right arm and leg. The left side has been slower to recover, but she now has a little movement in her left ankle and can feel the muscles in her left abdomen.

“It’s coming, it’s just been very slow,” Frank Carnucci said. “It’s like trying to fill up a bucket, and the water’s just dripping out of the fountain.”

Jaime Carnucci no longer uses a wheelchair. She is able to drive herself to her twice-a-week therapy sessions at Spaulding. She walks everywhere, using a walker to make sure her posture is correct.

“While the body’s learning you have to teach it the right way,” Frank Carnucci said. “We’re trying to train it to do the right thing.”

Carnucci said her spirits are generally good, but there are moments of emotional upheaval, like when she’s having a hard time putting on her shoes or a brace. She has always led a very active life.

“I’m not good at being slow,” she said. “It’s something I’ve had to get used to. My biggest challenge right now is my left side, especially my hand. My fingers are moving, but it doesn’t move anywhere near as well as my right. It’s frustrating, but it’s improving.”


Frank Carnucci said the first few weeks at home were spent adapting to “the new normal.” His wife had gotten used to the routine at Spaulding.

“You get home and everything is familiar, but the routine is not familiar at all,” Frank Carnucci said. “There’s been a lot of adjustment, but in the past two or three weeks we’ve gotten into the groove. She’s feeling a lot more comfortable in her skin. Being able to feel progress is the biggest thing that keeps her spirits up.”

Jaime Carnucci said being home with her family has had a great impact on her recovery but she has fought efforts to help her with cleaning and other chores.

“For me, I kind of have to do it,” she said.

Frank Carnucci, whose daily Facebook page updating his wife’s status has drawn the attention of hundreds, said he continues to receive tremendous support in letters, cards and Facebook messages. “Carnucci Strong” signs can be seen in their neighborhood.

He said navigating his family’s tragedy has had its good side. He and Jaime are closer now than they were before the accident.

“That happened early on,” he said. “We helped keep each other’s spirits up. There’s so much we went through because she was so vulnerable.”

The Carnuccis hope that by this time next year things will be even closer to the old normal. The goal, Frank Carnucci said, is still a 100 percent recovery.

“The doctors are very pleased,” he said. “This is still early in the game. They say her progress to this point has been great.”