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Support surges for University of Alberta student athlete paralyzed after Costa Rica fall

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A recent civil engineering graduate and member of the University of Alberta Pandas soccer program has been paralyzed from the waist down following a cycling accident in Costa Rica.

Friends say Nicole Palladino, 24, was riding a bicycle on Jan. 14, lost control and fell off a cliff.

“She fell off her bicycle when she was going downhill in Costa Rica and she perforated her lung and then broke three vertebrae in her back,” friend and soccer teammate Rebecca Reif said.

“From then on, she lost feeling from the chest down.”

Palladino, who is known by her nickname “Pal,” was in Costa Rica celebrating the completion of her undergraduate degree and her final season with the U of A varsity soccer team.

She played on both the U of A and MacEwan University varsity soccer teams with Reif.

“She is so athletic and so passionate about whatever she was playing, tried the hardest, was super positive, was a great teammate and a leader, and she was just amazing to play with,” Reif said.

The two have spoken on the phone several times since the accident. Reif said her friend is maintaining a positive attitude.

“She’s a super, super optimistic person. She’s already planning ahead and is working on moving on from this,” Reif said.

“She took it with grace and she’s just being super positive about what she’s doing, even though this is a really traumatic thing that’s happened to her.

“She’ll find a new sport or a new activity that she’ll conquer and get really good at almost immediately. We just support her so much.”

Her friends set up a GoFundMe campaign to support Palladino, her family and her recovery.

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