Shot by Accident: The Astonishing Story of Donna Barbour

Story by

Accidents happen all the time, and they often lead to injuries and negative outcomes for those involved. But now and then, an unfortunate accident can turn out to be a very fortunate thing, and that’s precisely what happened to Donna Barbour.

Donna Barbour / X-ray scan / Donna Barbour / Arrow tips / Brain scan
Source: Getty Images

Donna experienced a terrible accident that nearly ended her life. But in the end, it turned out to be the one thing that saved her life! How did this happen? Read on for the full, astonishing story of Donna Barbour and the stray arrow that changed everything for her and her family.

A Perfectly Normal Day

The incident occurred on a perfectly normal April day in Donna’s Texas hometown. It was a sunny and warm spring day, just like any other, and there was no reason to suspect that the day would be any different from the one before.

Donna Barbour sits in a rocking chair in her backyard.
Source: Facebook

However, as this story will show, life can be very unpredictable. Strange events and unexpected occurrences can arrive when we least suspect them, and even the most ordinary and straightforward days can be transformed instantly, without any warning whatsoever.

Donna Had Been Teaching

Donna Barbour was working as a teacher at the time of her accident. And, just like every other day of the week, she’d been to work and spent the day sharing all of the benefits of her knowledge and experience with bright young minds.

A teacher calls on a student to answer the question in class.
Photo by skynesher/Getty Images

She had been teaching a class of 20 small children that day. It had been a long and tiring day, and Donna was eager to get home and spend some time in her garden to help her relax on such a sunny and pleasant day.

Relaxing in the Backyard

Everyone needs a place to relax after a long, tiring day or some sort of hobby or pastime they can enjoy when they need to blow off some steam or forget about their worries. For Donna, the garden of her family home was the most relaxing and calming place to be.

A senior woman tends to her flowers in the garden.
Photo by Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images

So, when she got home after a long day of teaching, the only thing she wanted to do was spend some time in her garden and enjoy the peace and quiet. In her own words, it “had become my favorite place to relax and unwind.”

Getting Ready for Dinner

Donna spent some time in her garden, tending to her flowers and enjoying the relaxing, calming nature of her little haven. Then, as time went by and she started to feel hungry, she decided to prepare some dinner to share with her husband, Ed.

Donna and Ed are out dining at a restaurant.
Source: Facebook

Ed was inside the family home at the time, having a call with the couple’s daughter, Keila. Donna, meanwhile, decided to fire up the barbecue, ready to cook up some tasty food to share with her husband later that day.

A Sudden, Unexpected Impact

Everything seemed to be going smoothly for Donna, but her day was about to take a dramatic and unexpected turn. She’d only just fired up the grill and taken a few steps across the patio when she felt a sudden impact on the side of her neck.

An older woman stands over a grill while she grills peppers.
Photo by Studio4/Getty Images

The blow came to the right side of Donna’s neck, and it seemed to appear out of nowhere. She remembers feeling like she had been struck with a baseball bat from out of thin air, and she was baffled and unsure about what had happened to her.

Finding Out What Had Happened

Donna knew that she was alone in the yard at the time, and it made no sense that someone or something could have suddenly arrived out of nowhere and hit her. But, mere seconds after the impact, she was about to find out what had happened.

different arrows spread across a table.
Photo by Bree Walk/Getty Images

She reached up to the side of her neck to feel the area that had been hit, and she was immediately horrified at what she felt there. It was an arrow sticking right out of her neck. In that split second, she realized that she had been shot and was in grave danger.

She Rushed to Her Husband for Help

It didn’t take Donna long to realize that she needed help, and she needed it quickly. She knew that the arrow in her neck could have cut through a major artery and that her life was in danger. It was important to act fast and try to get help as quickly as possible.

Senior man's hands are holding a smartphone.
Photo by Bloom Productions/Getty Images

So, without any delay, she rushed into the house and started screaming for her husband, Ed, to come and help her. Ed was still on the phone at the time, but he dropped it as soon as he saw Donna and quickly rushed to be with her.

Panicking and Praying to Stay Alive

Donna was in a terrible state. She was terrified, shocked, and confused. She couldn’t stop racing around, unsure what to do next and so scared for her life. Luckily, Ed was there to help. He held her shoulders and told her to sit down.

Close-up of a senior man with hand on the shoulder of his wife.
Photo by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

After that, Ed immediately got on his phone and dialed 911 to contact the emergency services and help his wife. In the meantime, Donna tried to remain as still and calm as she could, praying for survival and begging God for help.

The Next Hour Was a “Blur”

Donna doesn’t remember too much about the hour that followed. In her own words, it all felt like a “blur” or ” a crazy, jumbled mix of events” as people came to try and take care of her and the emergency services arrived to help.

Paramedics are loading a patient into an ambulance.
Photo by Thinkstock Images/Getty Images

Upon arriving at the scene, the emergency service workers took a look at Donna and tried to keep her calm as they assessed the situation. They decided that the best course of action was to airlift her to a trauma center.

The EMTs Did Wonderful Work

Donna doesn’t remember every single detail from that dramatic time. Still, she does remember that the EMTs who arrived at her home were very kind, friendly, and professional people who did their job to perfection, right from the very first moment they arrived on the scene.

A paramedic holds the hand of an older woman.
Photo by in-future/Getty Images

Donna described the EMTs as “simply wonderful.” They entered the home, sat down beside her, and remained calm and focused while they were with her, doing their best to keep Donna calm, too, while urgently requesting additional help.

Lots of People Arrived on the Scene

Donna also remembers that a lot of other people had arrived at her home that night. It had taken a while for the paramedics to get there, and the nearest trauma center was in the city of Amarillo, 65 miles away from Donna’s home.

Donna and Ed pose with some of their friends and family.
Source: Facebook

So there was quite a lot of time for Donna, Ed, and their neighbors at home as they waited for the helicopter to arrive and fly her away. During that time, more and more people heard about what had happened and came to lend any kind of support they could.

The Presence of People Helped Donna Feel at Peace

For Donna, seeing all of those kind and loving people around her home helped to give her a very reassuring and calming feeling. In fact, despite the drama of the situation, she remembers feeling totally at peace with it all.

Donna smiles for a photo.
Source: Facebook

So, when she finally got into the helicopter and started to take off in the direction of Amarillo, she felt quite confident that everything was going to be okay. She felt that her prayers had been heard and that she was surrounded with love and care on all sides so that everything would work out in the end.

How Had it All Happened?

So how had the arrow found its way into Donna’s neck in the first place? Well, she soon found out, as the people responsible arrived to share their apologies and explain the whole situation, revealing exactly how the terrible accident had happened.

An X-ray of the arrow in Donna’s neck.
Source: Twitter

Up until that point, the origin of the arrow had been a complete mystery, and nobody could have guessed how it had possibly found its way into Donna and Ed’s backyard and hit Donna with such force. Fortunately, the mystery was about to be solved.

A Young Archer Lived Nearby

It turned out that one of Donna and Ed’s neighbors was responsible for the arrow. He was a young man who lived across the alleyway from the couple, and on that day, he’d been out in his backyard, practicing his archery skills.

A man draws an arrow in his longbow.
Photo by Christopher Bissell/Getty Images

The young man had been practicing with a compound bow, a powerful type of bow used for hunting animals like deer. He’d been training and trying to hone his skills, but one of his shots had taken a terrible deflection and gone in the wrong direction.

An Extraordinary Fluke

The young man had been aiming north with his arrows. But one of them ricocheted and started heading back south, towards Donna and Ed’s home. It flew over a couple of fences, as well as flying through some shrubs and foliage.

Arrows rest in the archer’s quiver while he stands before targets.
Photo by Fotografiiando el mundo/Getty Images

The arrow even passed between the branches of an old oak tree and narrowly avoided connecting with a couple of hanging baskets before eventually striking Donna in the side of the neck. It was a total fluke and an unfortunate accident that nobody could have seen coming.

It Could Have Been Deadly

A shot from a compound bow can travel at a rate of 300 feet every second, which is about 200 miles an hour. These bows and arrows are designed to do a lot of damage and kill large animals, so Donna knew she was fortunate to be alive.

A young boy is shooting a modern bow and arrow in his backyard.
Photo by avid_creative/Getty Images

The luckiest part of the whole story was that the young archer was using a practice arrow at the time. Practice arrows have softer, rounded tips when compared to proper broadhead arrows that hunters use. This makes them less dangerous. A broadhead arrow would indeed have killed Donna instantly.

The Neighbors Were Deeply Sorry

The young man and his parents were some of the people who had heard about what happened and rushed over to Ed and Donna’s house before she was airlifted away. Naturally, they were very sorry for what had happened.

Sorry reputedly written on adhesive sticky notes.
Photo by jayk7/Getty Images

The young man cried out to Donna, “I’m so sorry!” and his parents arrived later to explain the whole thing. Donna wasn’t angry; she knew it was all a freak accident, and the young man hadn’t meant to hurt her.

Donna Arrived at the Trauma Center

So, once she’d found out the full story and finally got into the helicopter, Donna was transported over to the trauma center in Amarillo, Texas. There, some members of her family were already waiting to greet her and offer their support.

Paramedics are removing a patient from a medevac helicopter.
Photo by Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Getty Images

Her daughter, Keila, and her two sons, Kyle and Mitch, were worriedly waiting to see their mother. And they were naturally very shocked and frightened when they saw her with the arrow sticking from her neck. But Donna still felt quite peaceful and calm about the whole situation.

She Tried to Convince Them That Everything Was Alright

When she arrived at the trauma center, Donna remembers the looks on the faces of her children. She could instantly see how scared and worried they were, but by that point, she was feeling quite calm and at ease with everything that was happening.

Daughter holds her mother's hand while the mother lays in a hospital bed.
Photo by sukanya sitthikongsak/Getty Images

She found it hard to talk due to the arrow but tried to reassure them. “I’m okay,” she kept saying. She could tell from their faces that her children didn’t believe her and feared the worst, but she continued to repeat that she was okay as she waited for her treatment.

A Scan Was Needed

Next was time for the doctors to help Donna and get that arrow out of her body. But before they started to operate to remove the arrow, they needed to find out how deep it was in her neck and what kind of interior damage it had done.

A doctor is watching through a protective window as a patient enters an MRI scanner.
Photo by Willie B. Thomas/Getty Images

The neck is home to some of the biggest and most important blood vessels in the entire body: the carotid arteries, which are situated on both sides of the neck and supply blood to the brain and head, and the jugular veins, which take the blood back from the brain towards the heart.

The Scan Revealed the Extent of the Damage

The doctors worried that the arrow might have penetrated one or more of the major blood vessels inside Donna’s neck, as there have been similar cases in the past where foreign objects have entered the body and blocked these vessels, making them very risky to remove.

The scans of the arrow in Donna’s neck / Donna is sitting in her backyard.
Source: Twitter

Luckily, after the CT scan to see what was going on, Donna’s doctors discovered that the arrow had penetrated the space right between the carotid artery and jugular vein on the right side of her neck. It had pushed the vessels aside without damaging either one.

She Was Lucky To Be Alive

The doctor arrived in Donna’s room to deliver the news, explaining how the arrow had missed both key blood vessels. He told her that she was lucky to be alive, and it was at that moment that she realized just how blessed she had been.

A patient is listening to a doctor explain things in a hospital room.
Photo by Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

It’s very easy to see how, if the arrow had been just a little more to the left or right, or if it had hit her at a slightly different speed or angle, it could easily have torn through one of those major vessels and caused fatal blood loss.

She Had to Have Surgery

The scan showed that the arrow hadn’t done as much damage as feared, so the next step was surgery; the doctor needed to operate on Donna with great care and attention to remove the arrow without doing any further damage.

A photo of Donna in her backyard.
Source: Facebook

It was a two-hour-long procedure, and it had to be carried out almost immediately. Donna was put to sleep that night, and the surgical team successfully removed the arrow, but Donna’s story was far from over, and they still had a big surprise in store.

Good News and Bad News

The next morning after the surgery, Donna woke up. Her whole family was there in the room with her. They were all so happy to see that she was awake and feeling fine, and Donna felt lucky to be alive. However, her surgeon then came back to deliver some unexpected news.

A brain scan.
Photo by Roxana Wegner/Getty Images

The surgeon checked Donna’s wound and took a moment to explain the procedure to Donna and her family. And then he revealed something terrible: he told Donna and her loved ones that her CT scan had revealed a brain tumor.

A Terrible and Unexpected Revelation

Donna and her family could hardly believe what they were hearing. They had just overcome a shocking health scare, only to be informed that there was still another huge health problem to overcome. It was a major shock for everyone.

A young person holds the hands of an older woman.
Photo by Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

The surgeon explained that the tumor was most likely benign but was situated in a very difficult place from a surgical standpoint, so it would be difficult and risky to remove. The family knew that they had some big decisions to make.

Donna Felt Like it Was All Part of God’s Plan

Donna had always been a very religious and faithful woman. So, when she heard the news from the surgeon, she was shocked and scared, but she also managed to use her faith to see the brighter side of the situation.

A senior woman is lying in a hospital bed, staring at the cross hanging on the wall.
Photo byy SilviaJansen/Getty Images

She felt like the whole story had been a part of God’s plan for her. Because, without the arrow and the accident, she wouldn’t have had the scan in the first place and might not have found out about the tumor until it was too late.

Seeking a Second Opinion

Donna’s surgeon said that the tumor was probably benign. However, he added that it was located in a sensitive part of the brain, right beside a major vein. Because of that, he was very worried that if the tumor grew or moved at all, it could rupture the vein and lead to a massive stroke.

A doctor examines a tablet with an MR-scan of a human brain.
Photo by Solskin/Getty Images

He wanted to operate right away. Donna and her family weren’t completely sure what to do, so they got a second opinion. The second surgeon looked at the scans and entirely agreed with the first, saying that surgery would be difficult but had to be done to avoid the possibility of a fatal stroke.

Another Operation for Donna

So, after getting two professional opinions on the matter, Donna and her family realized that surgery was the only option. It wasn’t something that she wanted, but it was something that she needed, so Donna agreed to have the tumor removed.

Surgeons are performing surgery in a hospital operating room.
Photo by Ruben Earth/Getty Images

Thankfully, the operation was a complete success. The surgery team removed the tumor from Donna’s brain, and only a few days after that, she was released from the hospital and allowed to go back home. And only a week later, she was enjoying a retirement party with friends by her side.

Three Peaceful Years Passed

After she got home and retired, Donna was finally able to enjoy some much-needed peace and comfort in her life. She had been through a lot and had suffered plenty of stress and fright after dealing with the arrow accident and the brain surgery.

Rear view of a senior couple in wooden chairs sitting outdoors.
Photo by Urilux/Getty Images

But she was finally able to live her life for a while. Three years went by like that, without any more issues. But she still had to go for an annual MRI scan to ensure that the tumor hadn’t returned. Unfortunately, after the third-year scan, she got another dose of bad news.

A Brain Aneurysm Had Been Detected

The doctor explained to Donna that the tumor wasn’t back, but her latest scan had revealed a brain aneurysm. Usually, aneurysms aren’t spotted until they rupture, and by that point, it’s already too late to do much about them.

A doctor is having a meeting with an elderly couple in his office.
Photo by Morsa Images/Getty Images

But this one had been found early, and there was still time to take action. So, once again, it was decided that Donna would have to have brain surgery to essentially seal off the aneurysm and prevent it from rupturing later on.

A Tricky But Successful Surgery

Donna tried to find some sense of inner peace again before the operation, taking comfort in her faith and belief in God. Then, a few months later, she set off to Dallas for the operation, which turned out to be quite a challenging procedure.

A team of doctors are performing surgery on a patient.
Photo by HRAUN/Getty Images

The surgery was successful, but the surgery team found that the aneurysm was very fragile and close to rupturing at the time. It was covered in blisters, and the surgeon had to be very delicate to seal it off with small clips. Thankfully, everything went well in the end.

Donna Felt Incredibly Lucky

When she heard the report from the surgeon about the condition of the aneurysm and how close it had been to rupturing, Donna again began to realize how lucky she had been and how all of these events had been connected.

The scan of the arrow in Donna’s neck / A smiling Donna at home.
Source: Reddit

She thought, “If it wasn’t for the accident, I wouldn’t have been having scans, and I never would’ve been diagnosed in time.” In a way, she realized that getting shot by that arrow had not only saved her life once with the tumor but technically twice with the aneurysm.

An Extraordinary Series of Events

Donna’s story truly has been an extraordinary series of events. Without the arrow, she’d never have had the CT scan and found out about the tumor in time to get it removed. And without that surgery, she wouldn’t have known about the aneurysm later on.

Donna is standing and smiling in her home.
Source: Facebook

So, even though the arrow accident seemed so terrible and tragic, to begin with, Donna and her family now feel that it was one of the best things that could ever have happened. It allowed them to help Donna avoid several other serious and potentially fatal problems later in life, giving her more time to enjoy with those she loves.

Living Life to the Fullest

And ever since she got out of that surgery room for the third time, Donna has been living life to the fullest and making the most of every single day. She continues to be a big believer in God, attending the Sunray Church of Christ and making donations to the church with her husband, Ed.

A selfie of Donna in her backyard.
Source: Facebook

She even sold her story to Reader’s Digest and donated the fee she received to the church. Aside from that, she’s been spending time with friends and family, cherishing all of the time she has, and truly feeling like every day she gets is a blessing from above.