An Instagram fitness model who was left paralyzed from the neck down after falling on her head while doing an inverted sit-up has credited prayer and her Christian faith as major factors in her "miraculous" recovery.
Marcelle Mancuso, 23, a fitness model from Brazil, broke a vertebrae after slipping off a bench while performing the abdominal exercise on a gym bench in January of 2016.
"It was just another normal day of training," the law graduate told SWNS. "I went to perform the abdominal inverted sit up, and was upside down. I was attached to the equipment with a strap, which broke and the personal trainer could not hold me. I hit the back of my head on the floor, and immediately lost all body movements with the blow."
"I lost all the movements from the neck down when I hit my head on the floor," she recalled. "I could move my eyes. I had to keep calm and began to pray."
After being rushed to the hospital, Mancuso was told she had broken the fifth vertebrae in the neck section of her spine, knocked another one out of place, and squashed a third, compressing her spinal cord.
Doctors performed emergency surgery and fitted her with a titanium plate held by six screws into her spine, but warned her she may never regain feeling in her arms and legs.
"My diagnosis was tetraplegia — no movement in my arms or legs. The doctors did not know if I would walk again or if I would stay on a bed forever," she said.
However, just three days after undergoing surgery, Mancuso was able to wiggle her fingers and toes. In a week she could stand up with help, a month after the accident she took her first steps with a walking frame, and three months after the accident, she was able to walk on her own.
"After four months I started to improve my leg strength and five months after the accident I stopped having fainting and dizziness while walking," she said. "After six months I managed to walk and my legs did not sway any more."
Doctors, she said, were astounded by her swift recovery.
"I was willing to fight until the last minute. Gradually my movement came back. The doctors were surprised by my recovery," she said. "One day when I was in the doctor's office thanking the doctor who operated on me, he said: 'Do not thank me, thank the guy from the top. This is his work' — meaning God."
Today, Mancuso is more active than ever. She's quick to credit the power of prayer and her staunch faith for her miraculous recovery.
"I was afraid, but my faith always spoke louder and I thanked God for being alive," she said. "My parents were desperate with fear of losing me but I was always very determined."
She added, "It sometimes feels like it was a nightmare I have woken up from. I have a normal life today and thank God all the time for it! I learned to value the simplest things in life, such as getting out of bed and being able to brush my teeth without the help."
Based on her experience, Mancuso said she wants to encourage others to live their lives to the fullest.
"I want to help and inspire so many people who are going through difficult times," she said. "While you're alive, you have a chance. Life can be incredible from various perspectives, it just depends on us and the love we carry in our hearts."
She's also once again active on Instagram, regularly posting photos of her fitness routines to her thousands of followers.
On Jan. 9 — the two year anniversary of regaining her ability to walk — Mancuso posted a video in which she runs, jogs, and performs other exercises.
"Today, it's my 2 year anniversary after crash!" she captioned the video, thanking "God, family, friends, and strangers" for their support.
"More than learning to walk, I learned to thank! Always be grateful and HAPPY, for what you have and for who you are! Do good and want good. This victory is ours!"
According to statistics, approximately 1.7 percent of the U.S. population lives with some form of paralysis, defined by the study as a central nervous system disorder resulting in difficulty or inability to move the upper or lower extremities.
The leading cause of paralysis was stroke (33.7 percent), followed by spinal cord injury (27.3 percent) and multiple sclerosis (18.6 percent).