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Flaming Heck! A Coconut Almost Killed Me – Just Days After My Wedding

‘We need to find a venue, book a date and research caterers,’ I said to my fiancé, Paul, 41, as I scribbled down each task on my to-do list.

He had only proposed a few weeks earlier, but I was already in full wedding-planning mode.

‘Mmm hmmm,’ he muttered, looking worried. 

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked, catching sight of his troubled expression.

‘It’s just I couldn’t think of anything worse than a big wedding with all eyes on me,’ Paul squirmed shyly. ‘Don’t you worry,’ I told him.

‘They’ll all be on me!’ ‘I’m serious Nat,’ he told me.

‘The last thing I want is an over-the-top do.’‘Fine,’ I huffed, pushing my wedding magazines to one side.

‘We could get married abroad?’ he suggested. ‘We’d have fewer guests and could go all out.’

‘That does sound nice,’ I said, coming around to the idea.

A few days later I came home armed with a pile of travel brochures and popped them down on the kitchen table in front of Paul.

‘What do you think of Thailand?’ I asked.

‘It’s stunning,’ he smiled, admiring the pictures of its sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.

‘That’s that settled then,’ I smiled.   

Together, we found and booked a hotel to hold our ceremony and set about drawing up the guest list, sending out the invites and choosing a colour scheme.  

The big day quickly flew around and as we clambered on the plane with our little girl, Ezme, in tow, reality began to sink in.

‘I can’t believe we’re really doing this,’ I squealed, clinking glasses of bubbly with Paul as we got cosy in our seats on the plane.

All of our nearest and dearest had booked flights and hotels to join us.

As soon as we landed, we knew we’d made the right decision. 

 We had planned to get married at our hotel – but there was a problem with our booking and we were left with no option but to find another venue.

‘What are we going to do?’ I panicked.

‘Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out,’ Paul assured me.

We spoke with our wedding planners – who were separate from hotel – and they arranged an intimate beach ceremony instead.

As I walked across the sand to join Paul and say our vows, I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect setting.

The day went without a hitch and we were both on cloud nine. 

After the celebration, Paul and I planned on honeymooning and doing some island-hopping with Ezme.

We left our friends and family behind and headed to Phuket.  

It was New Year’s Eve and we were wondering what to do to see in 2013.

‘You should head to the beach,’ an English-speaking tourist told us.

‘There’ll be fireworks down there – you’ll have a great time.’

On his recommendation, we got dressed up and headed down to Kata beach for some dinner and drinks.

We sat down in a beachfront and gawped at the incredible fireworks illuminating the sky.

Instead of an organised display like at the seaside towns back in the UK, it was rather chaotic with random people selling fireworks to any Tom, Dick or Harry that wanted them and allowing them to set them off.

‘Ooo this doesn’t look safe,’ I said to Paul.‘Let’s finish these drinks and head back to the hotel,’ he said, as concerned as me.

But before we could make a move, a stray firework careered into the crowd, it hit a coconut that was propped up on a drinks display.

The force of the firework set the coconut alight and fired it straight in my direction.

It ploughed into my leg with such force that I was knocked to the ground and it set my dress alight.

‘Arrrgghh,’ I screamed, rolling around in agony on the floor.

Paul and nearby tourists desperately patted the flames out to extinguish the blaze. He went to move my leg and it was all weird and floppy.

‘Ouuuccchh!’ I shrieked as he touched it. I went into shock – my whole body started shaking.

Thankfully there was a male doctor from Belgium there and a female doctor from Australia on the beach.

She told me: ‘I work in ICU, I’ll look after you, don’t worry’.

My leg was in so much pain, she could tell instantly that I’d broken it.

Unable to move, kind-hearted helpers bundled me onto a sunbed from the beach and carried me up to the road.

As it was New Year’s Eve, when Paul called for an ambulance they were told there was none available.

They tried to get me into the back of a tuk tuk – but it was no good – so instead they flagged down a pick-up truck and put me into the back.

I was rushed to the nearest hospital with Paul and Ezme.

The journey took an hour and I was screaming and crying the whole time.

After arriving at A&E I was transferred to a hospital in Phuket – the journey took another two hours.

I wasn’t able to have any pain relief as medics wanted to see my passport and travel insurance documents first.

As it was 3am in the morning, Paul had to get in a taxi with Ezme and travel to our hotel – more than an hour away – and come back with the papers.

I was begging for pain relief the whole time – I was in absolute agony.

When they got all of our paperwork, they gave me some pain relief and rushed me straight into theatre and they put pins in both of my bones – the tibia and fibula – to fix it.

Where the coconut had hit my leg, the impact had caused the skin to corrode and die. It was just getting blacker and blacker.

Every other day I had to go to theatre and they put me to sleep while they cut away at the skin – it was called debriding.

Unfortunately, their interpreter was on holiday for the two weeks whilst I was there so I also had to try and translate what they were saying on my phone.

When I woke up in recovery, my arms had been strapped to the bed like a crucifix.

I got bed sores and my heels turned black as I wasn’t moved properly – as I should have been.

I couldn’t get out of bed.I had to undergo a series of operations, blood transfusions and skin grafts – and had metal bars inserted into her calf which was left with a gaping hole.

I was in hospital for just over a fortnight. I had to have a blood transfusion and unit of blood while I was there as I lost so much.

I was on a morphine drip to manage the pain.Paul contacted all of our relatives to let them know what had happened and they wanted to travel to be with us, but due to the busy time of year, they were unable to book flights.

I just had to grin and bear it.Our insurance company flew a nurse out from the UK because I was on so much medication.

She was so lovely. Although the bones were mending, I had a hole in my leg where they had cut away the skin.

You could see right to the metal work in my leg.Luckily we’d taken out insurance and they paid for everything.

They put the nurse and I in business class on an Emirates flight and flew us back to Birmingham in mid-January.An ambulance met me at the airport and took me to Exeter Hospital.

Once back in the UK, I saw a consultant, and surgeons had to remove some of the metal work in her leg to help it heal properly.

They also took some muscle out of my right leg at the top, inside of my leg and put it in the hole in my lower leg and attached it to my main artery in my heel.I was warned if it didn’t take, they might have to amputate below the knee and I was told that was likely to be the case at three different stages.

Doctors also found I had contracted an infection.

They couldn’t work out why the bone wasn’t healing, but then they found a bug in my leg – called shewenella alegia – which is a foreign bacteria, you don’t get in the UK.

Normally fishermen get it or it’s found in places by the sea, which makes sense as the accident happened on a beach.

I was off work for two years in total as my leg just wasn’t healing.

During the healing process, I fell pregnant with our second child and I had to go to Torbay Hospital to have IV antibiotics every day.

Doctors said they’d never given anyone IV antibiotics for that length of time whilst being pregnant and warned me I might end up needing an amputation.

I had to worry of not only being pregnant, but also potentially having my leg chopped off.

A week before I had Orla, now four, in March 2014, I had my the bars and cage removed from my leg.

Now six years on, I’m still recovering from the ordeal. I get the odd pain now and again.

I’ve only got half the lymph nodes in my leg and have to wear a special stocking to stop the swelling.

But I think anything is better than not having a leg at all.

I’ve changed in myself – I’ve got bigger because I can’t move around as much as I used to.

But I’m just thankful I’m still here and that it wasn’t my head.If the coconut had hit my head, I wouldn’t be here.It’s not all doom and gloom, I’ve come out of it stronger.

It couldn’t drive or get out and about. I couldn’t work. I was a prisoner in my own home for two years.

When I took my little girl to the museum there was a big bang that sounded like a firework being let off and I just burst into tears.

Whenever firework night comes up, I panic.

When a loud noise sounds and I’m not ready for it or if I don’t know it’s going to happen I jump out of my skin.

I feel like I’ve got PTSD as I suffer from flashbacks too.

What was supposed to be the happiest time of our lives ended up turning into the most horrific.

I really thought I was going to die or that I’d lose my leg.I feel so lucky to have survived and I’m relieved it wasn’t my daughter, Ezme, now 10, that the coconut hit – otherwise she certainly wouldn’t be here today.

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