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Benefit for Don Carney

Life can change in an instant, and change is something that the Carney family is coming to terms with after an accident turned their world upside-down.

The accident occurred on Sept. 8 during a weekend trip to a hunting ranch with family. Petaluma resident Don Carney was sleeping in the bed of his truck, as he usually does on camping trips, when he got up in the middle of the night and fell off the edge of the tailgate.

The fall left him paralyzed from the chest down.

"We don't know what happened exactly," said friend and neighbor Sue Lassen. "But the fall caused a spinal cord injury."

Carney was taken to the trauma center at Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, where he had surgery to fuse his vertebrae back into alignment. On Sept. 11., he was transferred to the ICU at Kaiser in Santa Rosa where he stayed until Nov. 19.

"He's now at the Kaiser rehabilitation facility in Vallejo, which is a state-of-the-art facility," said his wife, Cheri Carney. "He gets three hours of physical therapy and occupational therapy every day. He's improving."

Carney's condition is classified as a C7 spinal cord injury, which refers to an "incomplete" spinal cord injury where some motor function is preserved. His prognosis, however, is unknown.

"It's too early to tell if he'll walk again," said Cheri, a part-time bookkeeper who has been at his side every day since the accident. "Everyone recovers differently. It could be six months. It could be a year. We can only hope for sooner."

Cheri said that Carney is handling things well and that his spirits have been good.

"That's why he's doing as well as he is," said Cheri. "If you're down, it makes things harder. He's as positive as you can be after such a life-changing event."

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