The Hangman’s Fracture: What Really Happened To Me And What I Learned

by Irène Schäppi May 14, 2022

The Hangman’s Fracture: What Really Happened To Me And What I Learned

On January 22nd around 4 am in the morning I woke up lying on the Persian rug next to my bed. I felt dizzy and disorientated as one would after having partying too much. But this was (unfortunately) not the case. It is as simple as this: I fell out of my bed whilst being deeply asleep and by doing so, I must accidently have hit my head very hard on the concrete wall next to my bed.

I am very, very sorry my beloved ones

My head was pounding, and I felt an excruciating pain in my neck area. And I felt ashamed. How could this happen to me? An ass-grown up woman? So, I tried to pull myself together and to get up again. The pain in my neck area as well as the dizziness though made this effort impossible. I started to panic. Luckily, I’ve got a phone necklace attached to my smartphone that helped me to pull it down to me on the floor. That’s when I frantically started to call around, aware that might some of my friends are deep asleep. Or, not picking up, as this is something I do when I am at home after having gone out, drunk and I have the absolute need to speak with someone. Ring any bells, someone? What usually seemed to me a glamorous move à la Elizabeth Taylor (she was known for her late-night calls), is a very selfish and, yes, an abusive behavior towards my friends. For that I am very, very sorry my beloved ones.

Luckily one of my friends picked up though and after describing to her the symptoms I experienced in my body, she encouraged me to call the emergency (should you ever be in need, just dial the numbers 144 for Switzerland). After that I don’t remember much. So far it is only this: The ER team told me on the phone that they might have to force my door open to enter my house. Something I was determined not to let happen. Don’t ask me how I managed to get up from the floor and open the door for them – this is still something that is blurry to me. The next thing I know I am lying in the ER and a nurse wants to cut up my top by Zadig & Voltaire as she must apply a Cervical Collar to immobilize my cervical spine. Naturally I objected. How could she dare to destroy my top?!? Her simple answer: Miss, you’ve broken your neck and I am not allowed to move your head, neck nor upper body. That’s when I realized the severe and even life-threatening situation, I found myself to be in. I didn’t say another word.

Around 10 am my boyfriend arrived. By the look of his face, I’ve never seen this tall and strong man so afraid, the severity of my accident sunk in even more. But I tried to calm him down by making jokes and playing everything down – whatever meds the doctors had given me, damn, they worked! Shortly after the arrival of my boyfriend I was moved up to my room that was filled up with sun and had an almost airy ambiance. Next to me lay an elderly almost deaf but charming Greek woman. She, the kindness of the nurses and the mentioned room situation played a huge part in my first healing process. Then came the moment, when the doctors explained the diagnosis to me: By falling out of my bed and hitting my head on the wall I had managed to break the second vertebra of my neck, called the C2, or axis. Also known as Anderson and D'Alonzo classification Type 3 or as the hangman’s fracture.

What is a hangman's fracture really?

I’ll give you some more details: The C2 is a bone that forms a ring around your spinal cord. A hangman's fracture occurs on both sides of this bone. A hangman's fracture occurs when your head is forcefully snapped back and up. This is a hyperextension injury, meaning that your neck is extended beyond its normal range. While the biggest worry in many cases of neck fracture is damage to the spinal cord, a hangman's fracture doesn't usually damage the spinal cord at the time of the injury. However, it can be an unstable fracture, which means the bones might move if it's not treated. If that happens, it can damage the spinal cord, which can cause pain, paralysis, or even death.

The latter was what could have happened to me as an acquaintance – a physical therapist – did mention to me sometime later after returning home from the hospital. Pause. The fact that I could have died in the early hours of January 22nd, is still something that I cannot understand really. Or that I even can fully grasp really. Even now, as I am writing this article for you. My psychological therapist calls this behavior shock. Or self-preservation if you want to call it like that.

All in all, I had to stay for ten days in the hospital which were filled with a lot of pain, dizziness, not much sleep and which felt somewhat trippy due to the heavy medication I was put on. Not to mention the Cervical Collar, that made me feel and look like a very bad version of Robocop. Thanks to my boyfriend, friends, and family though I had the best support ever. To this day I am so grateful for all of you. Also, for my doctors, Mario, and Robin (Batman!!!!), that led me through those first days of healing with so much care and all the information I needed and wanted to know.


Unfortunately, the hospital stay as well as the first recovery phase at home afterwards weren’t filled with light and love only. That is partially my fault as I posted, shortly after arriving in my hospital room, a story on Instagram. It must have been the meds, as I don’t really remember myself doing it or replying to the messages that came in after that. Some of them quite morbid. Here’s one person’s message: “I thought that if you break your neck, you should be dead, right?” Um, yes. Sorry to be alive, hashtag #sorrynotsorry!

This is when I decided to pull back from social media. Not only from my personal account but from the one for The Goddess Collective as well. Fortunately, I’ve got the best team ever, that, after the first shock, took over and is handling everything from Instagram via blogging up to shipping out your orders since then. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Today, almost four months have passed since my gruesome accident. Four months that led me to see my whole life and personality from another perspective. I mean, what else do you want to do when you’re forced to lay down flat on a bed for almost five weeks in total and you’re struggling with headache, pain, panic attacks and the most terrible self-doubt you can imagine? This is what I learned so far and what I aim to become every day until to the rest of my life: Unapologetically Myself! I am done with people-pleasing. I am done seeking approval by being liked by everyone. And I am done to care about what other people think of me.

Here’s what happened to me since doing so

First, I noticed some things about myself: I became happier, more excited about my life, less worried about the things I couldn’t control, more patient with other people and came to the realization that living your life for other people was and is a waste of time!

Therefore, I want to encourage you to give this exercise a chance as you are only given a limited time on this planet. I am the best example for this, my dearest ones.

Obviously, becoming unapologetically yourself comes with a price: You will lose some so-called friends. Or your job even. You won’t be liked by everyone anymore and some people might will not recognize you and your new mindset anymore or start asking, "What is wrong with you?". Let them. But don’t let them get into your head. Being unapologetically yourself is the highest form of self-love, believe me. I’ve never felt more alive, loved and being on the right path as I am doing now.

As for my neck: I still can’t fully move it, but luckily, I didn’t have to undergo any surgery. I stopped taking medication. And my physical therapist and I are working hard on my recovery. That is why I am convinced that I’ll be back to normal – including this very Instagram able looking over my shoulders – by the end of this year, the latest. In the meantime, I will keep being unapologetically myself (yes, this includes Instagram filters as well!) and living my life to the fullest.

From my heart to yours, Irène



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