Sophie Wilson was only a week into her dream vacation when she took a life-altering dive into a pool.
As The Sun reports, the 24-year-old from Leicestershire, England, was in Thailand as part of a six-month backpacking trip to Asia. Only a week into the trip, Sophie stopped at a pool in Northern Thailand where other travelers were swimming and jumping into the water.
The active young woman told iNews that she never thought twice about the depth of the pool before diving in:
“Initially I was in shock, I never had any reason to believe the pool to have been so shallow as people were jumping and diving in before me.”
Unfortunately, the water was much shallower that Sophie realized. As she made contact with the bottom of the pool, she immediately felt intense pain. Sophie told iNews:
“I never lost consciousness. I couldn’t feel my body, just excruciating pain in my neck. I remember saying that I couldn’t feel my legs.”
A fellow traveler saved Sophie from drowning and pulled her from the water. She was taken to a local hospital, where the wound on her head was stitched up. However, Sophie had also broken her neck and needed expert care.
She was transferred from the local hospital to a private hospital 150 miles away. She says the three-hour trip was “agony,” as she had no painkillers and her blood pressure dropped dangerously low. Sophie told iNews:
“Doctors knew there was more severe damage so sent me in an ambulance to a bigger hospital in Chiang Mai. They refused to give me any painkillers or water. Every time my body was moved from the movement of the ambulance I was sick due to the sheer pain.
Every time I was sick my friend Laine was trying to wipe it from my mouth to prevent me from choking. I was deteriorating very quickly. Laine was tying to keep me awake.”
By the time she arrived at the private hospital, Sophie was delirious and in danger of losing her life. According to her GoFundMe page, doctors told Sophie’s parents that it was “touch and go” as to whether she would even survive.
Sophie was diagnosed with a break to her C6 and C7 vertebrae as well as a compressed spinal cord. And there was more bad news. Though she bought travel insurance before her trip, Sophie’s insurer informed her that they would not cover her medical costs.
“Insure and Go sent an investigator to my hospital bed and then told me they wouldn’t pay because my diving was a reckless act,” Sophie told iNews.
Though Sophie’s parents flew to their daughter’s bedside immediately, they were told that the hospital refused to operate until the family could guarantee payment. Both the U.K. Government and the U.S. State Department warn travelers that many health care providers in Thailand require upfront payment.
Sophie’s family were able to secure payment for her operation, and she underwent a successful 10-hour surgery. The surgery eased Sophie’s pain and helped restore movement to one arm. However, she told iNews that they still don’t know if she’ll ever walk again:
“They are still unsure of whether I will be able to walk again, or at least make a full recovery, but I am trying to remain positive. The pain is still quite intense, but nothing in comparison to the initial break.”
Now, Sophie is facing another challenge: getting home. As her family explained on the GoFundMe page, the costs of paying for Sophie’s medical care and arranging a special medical flight to get her home have now risen to more than $75,000:
Doctors in Thailand have stressed that this is the only method of travel they are comfortable supporting due to the delicate condition of Sophie and the need of intensive care for the duration of the flight. […] Our family’s priority is to get Sophie on home soil, to continue her recovery, prevent medical costs rising further and get her back with all of her loved ones.
For a time, it looked like Sophie might be trapped in Thailand until her family raised the money. Fortunately, the crowdfunding effort has now surpassed the original goal.
Meanwhile, Sophie has been trying to stay upbeat. Her sister, Georgina, told iNews that Sophie is “so happy and bubbly and still smiling despite what’s happened to her. She called the family and told us to stop moping and get on with our lives.”
Sophie admitted to iNews that it has been difficult to face the possibility that she may not walk again. She added:
“But I believe that being negative will only make things harder. I’m lucky to still be here.”