Alyssa Pfannenstein was enjoying a lovely day outside with her family on Labor Day when the afternoon took an unexpected twist.

She and her boyfriend, Justin Janssen, were sitting in a hammock watching Pfannenstein’s 4-year-old daughter play in a local park, according to WCCO.

However, unbeknownst to the couple, they had set up their hammock between two 15-foot tall birch trees, one of which was rotten from the inside.

A loud snap, and then a “big boom” hit Pfannenstein in the back of the head. The rotten tree came crashing down on the mother, breaking her neck and nearly paralyzing her.


Janssen recalled:

“It was surreal. At the moment, there was not even time to panic because it happened so quickly.”

However, despite the near tragedy, Pfannenstein has been nothing but positive throughout the whole experience. Janssen said:

“Her calmness calmed me and her daughter down and made us understand everything would be OK.”


According to the doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minnesota, her attitude has remained consistent throughout her recovery. Her positivity is a “big part of the reason” doctors believe she’s already made progress.

An update on Pfannenstein’s GoFundMe page reads that she has already gained back “movement and strength,” including “arm movement in both directions.” According to the Twin City Pioneer Press, while Pfannenstein can’t move anything from her neck down, feeling has now “returned to about 95 percent of her body.” Janssen added:

“She had movement after the surgery, more movement than she had going in. She can feel her toes and which toe you’re touching, and she can move her arms … She can’t wiggle her fingers or move anything below her waist, but her spirit is the most positive I’ve ever seen.”


While this incident was a freak accident, Pfannenstein wants it to serve as a warning to families. Rotten trees may be hard to spot, but Safe Bee recommends looking for mushrooms around the base of the tree, as fungi can indicate internal rot. In addition, if trees are losing leaves “from the outside in,” this is often an indication that something is wrong with the root zone.

The Serac hammock website warns that “not all trees are equal when it comes to hanging your hammock.” In addition to ensuring that the trees are a proper distance apart, it is essential to choose a sturdy living tree that will support your weight.


Pfannenstein is extremely lucky to be alive, and she’s grateful her daughter was nowhere near the hammock when the tree came down. The concerned mother says she’d “take a tree for her [daughter] any day.” Janssen said:

“We just want to appreciate every miracle. Accidents happen and we will get through this like anything else.”

To support Pfannenstein’s recovery, visit her GoFundMe page.

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Mom Was Laying in a Hammock Watching Her Child Play — She Didn’t Know It Was Tied to a Rotten Tree

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