Tragic horseback riding accident leaves U-M nurse paralyzed from the neck down

Posted at 6:28 AM, Jun 28, 2024

The community is rallying around a Grass Lake woman who had her world completely turned upside down. Now, she's trying to make sense of why something she's loved most of her life is the cause of most of her pain.

Dawn Rammage and Brianna Engel met while working as nurses at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. Sparks flew, they dated, got engaged and then married in 2019.

Things were great, especially for Dawn, who loves Bri, loves nursing, and loves horses. She began horseback riding at the age of 16 and is a farrier, someone who works on horse hooves.

Life was going to plan, until a perfect Saturday couples ride several weeks ago turned disastrous.

"I was about ten steps from getting off and being done. And, for whatever reason, the horse bucked pretty good, twice and sent me into a spiral," Dawn said.

She hit the ground head first. She didn't lose consciousness while she flipped through the air. That's when she began thinking the worst.

"In nursing, I feel like you know too much. So, my arms flew back in a certain posture. I knew. I was paralyzed," she said.

"To me, it was just emergency Bri nurse mode. Right away within 20 minutes, the ambulance was there. I was coordinating people. The ambulance was coming to the back of the yard. We had a little bit of a walk. I coordinated fire," Bri said.

Dawn's spine was fractured. She was paralyzed from the neck down, aside from a tiny spot in her right thumb that has feeling.

Additionally, she said doctors told her she has a slim chance of ever walking again.

Dr. Gianna Rodriguez is the Michigan Medical Spinal Cord Injury Program director. She said every single spinal cord injury case is different.

"The most motor function and sensory function that comes back occurs within the first three months. You continue to regain function in your nervous system. You know, at six months and you know at 12 months. But it slows down a little bit. And, they say about one year, you sort of like plateau," Rodriguez said.

Despite Dawn's circumstances, she has a positive life outlook and calls this a new adventure.

"Life is always gonna constantly throw a curveball at me. Always. But, you just need to keep moving in that direction and be like alright you know, you got me there. But now, I’m gonna go in this direction," she said.

Dawn's primary goal is to be able to walk again.

If you'd like to help Dawn,click here.