Jaime Carnucci made herself a promise after checking into Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital: She was going to walk out.

It took two months of relentless work with therapists who pushed her up to 12 hours a day, but Carnucci made good on her promise Oct. 22, when she rose from the wheelchair that had carried her to the hospital’s threshold to stand beside her husband, Frank Carnucci. The two of them shuffled, arm and arm, out the hospital’s front door. A short time later Jaime Carnucci ended the journey that had started in August, when a jump off a dock left her with a broken neck, as she walked through the front door of her home.

“It really hit us as we pulled away from the parking lot that she had done it, and tears flowed,” Frank Carnucci wrote on his Facebook page later that day. “I am SO incredibly proud of this beautiful and courageous woman!”

Jaime Carnucci’s effort spawned a support network that spread from the Boston rehabilitation center, up and down the East Coast into her hometown of Winthrop, and even across the world. That network was bound together by Carnucci’s determination and the slogan it has spawned: Carnucci Strong.

The battle is not over, the Carnuccis said last week, but continued improvement is a steady source of motivation to keep going.

“I feel really well,” Jaime Carnucci said last week via telephone. “Things are progressing really well. I’m getting stronger every day. Things are getting easier.”

Carnucci, 37, is a 1995 graduate of Winthrop High School where she was a three-sport athlete — field hockey in the fall, basketball in the winter and track in the spring. Family and friends, including her former coach at Winthrop, Ray Convery, earlier this year recalled a strong-willed determined player who did what was necessary to help her team win.

“All she wants to do is get home and take care of her children,” Convery said in October. “Knowing Jaime, if it can be done, with her determination, she’ll do it.”

Jaime Carnucci’s battle began Aug. 2 at a camp near the Hooksett, N.H., home the couple shares with their two children, 12-year-old Nico and 9-year-old Aysa. The couple made plans to get away that weekend, sending their children to their grandparents so they could spend the weekend with friends at the camp.

Carnucci went with some friends for a late night swim at the beach down the road from the camp. She has spent a lot of time at the camp over the years. She knew the water off the dock was shallow, so was always careful to keep her head and neck away from the bottom. This time, however, Carnucci grabbed a friend’s hand as they jumped in together. The momentum tossed Carnucci into the water head first at a steep angle.

“It was just a freaky accident,” said her mom, Charle Clark of Winthrop.

Most of the Carncuccis’ friends who were there that night work with Jaime’s sister, Kamme Clark McAuliffe, at the New Hampshire NeuroSpine Institute. As specialists who work with spine injury patients, they knew how to hold Jaime Carnucci to best protect against further injury.

A CAT scan showed a complete fracture of the C5 vertebrae in Jaime Carnucci’s neck. The fragments, while pushing on the spinal cord, did not sever it, leaving Carnucci hope for recovery. Carnucci had surgery that evening and by the next morning could move her right leg. There has been slow but steady improvement since.

“She’s just been getting stronger,” Frank Carnucci said last week. “Everything that could move is moving better and getting stronger.”

Jaime Carnucci has seen the most progress in her right-side limbs. The left side has been slower to recover, but she now has faint movement in her left ankle, which did not exist before. She also can feel the muscles in her left abdomen.

“It’s coming, it’s just been very slow,” Frank Carnucci said. “It’s like trying to fill up a bucket, and the water’s just dripping out of the fountain.”

Jaime Carnucci no longer uses a wheelchair. She is able to drive herself to her twice-a-week therapy sessions at Spaulding. She walks everywhere and is using a walker to make sure her form remains proper.

“While the body’s learning you have to teach it the right way,” Frank Carnucci said. “We’re trying to train it to do the right thing.”

Jaime Carnucci said her spirits are generally good, but there are moments of emotional upheaval, like when she’s having a hard time putting on her shoes or a brace. She has always led a very active life. It’s easy to get fed up with the limitations.

“I’m not good at being slow,” she said. “It’s something I’ve had to get used to. My biggest challenge right now is my left side, especially my hand. My fingers are moving, but it doesn’t move anywhere near as well as my right. It’s frustrating, but it’s improving.”

Frank Carnucci said the first few weeks at home were spent adapting to “the new normal.” His wife got used to the routine of Spaulding.

“You get home and everything is familiar, but the routine is not familiar at all,” Frank Carnucci said. “There’s been a lot of adjustment, but in the past two or three weeks we’ve gotten into the groove. She’s feeling a lot more comfortable in her skin. Being able to feel progress is the biggest thing that keeps her spirits.”

Jaime Carnucci said being home with her family has had a great impact on her recovery.

“It’s nice to just be back to somewhat normal when you kind of get back into the routine of things,” she said. “Mentally it makes recovery a lot easier.”

She has fought against those who want to help her with cleaning and other chores that make her house a home.

“For me, I kind of have to do it,” she said. “I’ve been able to do it on my own.”

Frank Carnucci, whose daily Facebook page updating his wife’s status has drawn the attention of hundreds of people from across the globe, said he continues to receive tremendous support from letters, cards and Facebook messages. He continues to provide daily updates. The “Carnucci Strong” signs, several of which made their way to lawns in Winthrop, continue on display in spots around the neighborhood.

He said the family has tried to take the energy created by that support and pass it along to others who are struggling. They’ve helped friends going through a hard time, donated to people with injuries and most recently helped organize a fundraiser for children who lost both of their parents to illness and are now living with their grandparents.

He said navigating his family’s tragedy has brought about some good. He and Jaime are closer to each other now than they were before the accident.

“That happened early on,” he said. “We helped keep each other’s spirits up. There’s so much we went through because she was so vulnerable.”

Frank Carnucci said he finds it easier in general to be nicer to people.

“The little things that would drive you crazy are easier to take now,” he said. “You have to laugh stuff off. Someone cuts you off on the road, and it doesn’t bother you anymore.”

He also understands better now when people are unkind to him.

“You don’t know why this person’s in a bad mood,” Frank Carnucci said. “Maybe they have a wife at home that has a broken neck.”

Family gathered at the Carnucci home on Christmas. Jaime Carnucci was thankful for that. It’s a lot easier to stay at home than to go visiting.

“The less I have to do the better,” she said.

The Carnuccis hope that by this time next year things will be even closer to the old normal. The goal, Frank Carnucci said, is still a 100 percent recovery. That goal is still attainable.

“The doctors are very pleased,” he said. “This is still early in the game. They say her progress to this point has been great.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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