One minute Vicky Karabin Marshall was walking down the stairs of her Jersey City apartment building.
The next she was laying in a hospital bed, unable to talk or walk, a chunk of her skull gone.
The 31-year-old server considers herself lucky to be alive, nearly six weeks after the freak accident and subsequent emergency brain surgery that nearly ended it all.
And so, as Karabin Marshall relearns to walk, talk and live independently, she tells her story as a cautionary tale urging others to take care of themselves, and take nothing for granted.
"Appreciate life and every little thing you can do in it," she said, "because you never realize how much of it could be gone."
Karabin Marshall was serving tables at White Star Bar when she started to feel weak sometime around Christmas.
She mentioned feeling "collapsable" to her husband, Bill Marshall and, on Dec. 27, 2020, she took a tumble down the stairs in her Central Avenue apartment building.
Her husband found her seizing on a platform landing.
"He called 911 and I had the emergency brain surgery that saved my life," Karabin Marshall said.
"I had the emergency brain surgery that saved my life," she said. "They didn't think I was going to make it through."
Doctors had determined Karabin Marshall suffered a brain bleed. Their only hope was to operate right away.
Karabin Marshall spent nearly two weeks in a coma. When she came to, she couldn't walk, couldn't talk and had no idea what had happened.
"My husband told me everything," she said. "I was in disbelief, but more in shock and awe of the fact that I survived it."
While doctors told Karabin Marshall the brain bleed was a result of her collapse, she suspects it may have actually been the cause.
Her biggest regret? Not doing anything about it.
"It was a complete freak accident that I fell, but I genuinely believe I already had bleeding on the brain that caused it," she said. "Had I gotten checked out probably could have avoided the whole thing."
More than $61,000 had been raised on a GoFundMe toward Karabin Marshall's recovery as of Feb. 11.
Life as Karabin Marshall knows it has forever changed.
"There are little things that I can't do now which I never took into account before the fall," she said. "I have to wear a helmet every time I stand.
"I can't be home alone. I can't even go to the store by myself."
Karabin Marshall is always at risk of falling again, she said.
In the meantime, she is working with a physical therapist to relearn how to walk. She says has been the most challenging part of all.
She has a meeting with doctors scheduled for Feb. 26, to replace the part of her skull that was removed in the emergency surgery.
Karabin Marshall is looking forward to becoming strong enough to return to work.
So far, she's proud of the progress she's made.
"I'm excited to be healthy and where I am," she said. "I'm just happy to be alive."
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