A Leeds teenager cheated death when she plunged more than 30ft from a waterfall onto rocks during a dream gap year trip to Thailand.
Natalie Cook, 19, from Garforth, suffered a catalogue of horrendous injuries in the fall while she was on a jungle trek in the Mae Wang district of the country.
She survived after being carried in nightmarish pain on a plank of wood by 15 of her fellow trekkers for an hour in 100-degree heat to the closest road, where a taxi van had been called to take her to a clinic near the city of Chiang Mai.
Now back home and continuing her agonising recovery, she has vowed to return to Thailand when she is well enough to again follow her dream of travelling the world.
Natalie told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I’m slowly healing but it’s still very hard to properly confront what happened.
“I’m determined to go back to Thailand, though, and see the nurses that looked after me. I owe everyone that helped, on the day and afterwards, such a lot.”
The accident that came close to costing Natalie her life happened in May, six days into what should have been a five-week holiday in Thailand.
She was with a group of other travellers at the top of the waterfall when she slipped on a wet rock and was swept over its edge.
“As soon as I landed, everything was in slow motion. Everything was so quiet and I could feel my mind begin to drift away from me,” Natalie said.
“I vividly remember telling myself, ‘you have got to stay awake, if you go unconscious then you’re going to die’.
“I truly believe this was the moment I decided to stay alive and with that thought, I started gasping for air.
“I’m a very strong person and I knew I had to fight to stay awake and alive. The people I was with later told me they thought I was dead.
“I looked down at my leg and started trying to scream, ‘I’m paralysed’, but I was so badly winded nothing came out. I was petrified.”
Natalie’s injuries included a double femur fracture as well as a broken hip, pelvis, pubic bone and wrist.
She also suffered internal bleeding to her abdomen and serious damage to her lower back.
Reliving her hour-long journey in the taxi van to get medical help, she said: “I was screaming in pain every time we hit a bump or a rock.
“We eventually made it to a clinic, where they put a sheet underneath me and four of them grabbed each corner.
“They lifted me up and I howled in absolutely, searingly painful agony.
“Half of the bones in my body were broken and as soon as they lifted me, my body rolled in the sheet and everything crunched and cracked.
“The most painful torture you can think of, it isn’t even that – it’s 100 times worse.”
Natalie spent seven weeks in hospital in Thailand, with her boyfriend Christopher Cuevas and parents David Cook and Alison Poxton – who had flown out after getting word of the accident – at her bedside.
She finally flew home with a medical escort at the end of June and, although she is currently unable to put any weight on her left leg, she hopes to be in a position to start walking again in about 10 weeks.
The former Garforth Academy pupil has been left with a large plate along her femur which she wants to have taken out once her leg is fully healed. She is also aiming to have scar removal treatment.
Asked what advice she would give to other people planning to travel to far-flung parts of the world, Natalie said: “It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a holiday but you need to always remember what you have learned about safety, there could be danger anywhere.”