Below is the story of my accident in my own words. You can read the New York Times Article to learn about what happened in much broader terms.
It was the summer of 2016. I had bought a one-way ticket to Thailand with plans to take a month CELTA intensive English-teaching course and live somewhere in South East Asia after to teach English indefinitely.
I lived in Chiang Mai for 40 days before venturing off to scenically beautiful areas and cities of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. I was in ecstasy. I rode elephants, went cliff-diving and canyon/cave climbing, motorbiked down steep turns, ate whole buffets of food for only $1 and so on. Ironically I ran out of money and took a job in Lao Cai, Vietnam (way up in the north, near no airports – practically walking distance from the border of China) to teach English.
I lived inside of a classroom and literally rolled out of bed every morning to teach English. I lived in a very local town where nobody spoke English except for me and a few people working at my school.
To cut to the chase, I felt homesick for Thailand and stressed after one month into the job. I bought a ticket to Krabi, Thailand for September 1st without any hesitation when my boss announced a 4 day holiday in Vietnam. With a small book-bag holding a sketchbook and travel-sized yoga mat, I left for my 16 hour journey in the middle of the night. I was ready to lay on a tranquil beach with lush palm trees, play with some monkeys and be in peace with myself.
After a 5-hour ride to the airport of Hanoi, two flights to Krabi, one bus to Ao Nang and one long-tail boat ride to Ao Railay Beach, I arrived in Krabi.
I went to grab some dinner after sunset. Around 9pm I headed back to my room to sleep early and wake up early the next day. Because my bungalow was located in Tonsai past all these tall cliffs and heavy rocks/caves that blocked the pathway of the sand along the water, I neglected walking through all of that at night when the tide was high. I approached a local at a shop to ask where the other path to Tonsai was. He insisted I go with this other local man, who I wasn’t sure was deranged or just aboriginal. I hesitated for a moment, but relented because I felt tired.
My radar started going off while walking with this man. “What if he’s insane?” “What if he does something to you?” ‘What if he rapes you?” But I told myself to think positively and not show any panic. He looked confident he knew where he was going. He took me on a trail in the mountains to Tonsai before I realized I was going on an actual hike.
At that point, I was too scared to turn around. My bungalow was in such a deserted area and we were too far from the main area we met. All I wanted in that moment was my bed.
We went up together and everything was so far so good. After walking for at least 10 minutes, he began slowing down clueless of which direction to walk in. By then we were already deep in the woods. It was dark and nobody was around.
Out of nowhere, he stopped walking and grabbed me. He started taking off his pants and pinning me down. I was in total shock, but I refused to surrender. I started punching him in the face. He punched me back. He started roaring with anger and violence. I fell to the ground a couple of times fighting him, but got up every time. While standing, his arms were wrapped around my shoulders tightly and I felt locked up like a prisoner. I was so angry that I latched onto his ear with my teeth and bit him like a hungry wolf. I felt my top teeth and bottom molars ripping through his skin as he was simultaneously biting my left ring finger that I still have a scar from to this day.
He wasn’t giving up despite the immense pain he was in. His ear was slowly tearing off in my mouth.
He surrendered finally and let me go. “Okay okay” he said. I ordered him to take me back immediately. He said “Okay, but no police.” I followed him, trying to walk behind him, but then he grabbed me again.
I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know who this guy was. I was scared, frightened and terrified for my life. I was in a foreign jungle with a real creature. I was on a mission to save my life. Was this really happening? It was like a virtual reality video game. An out of body experience.
I turned around and began finding my way out of the trees and wilderness. I don’t think he knew I left, because his pants were still off and he was peeing and masturbating like a homeless person. I felt safer once I was about 40 feet away from him.
He started following me. I kept looking behind me to see if he was closer. It was hard to see in the dark but he was definitely getting closer. My heart was pounding. I kept walking faster and faster. My head was still turned around. I was so focused on what was behind me that I didn’t pay attention to what was in FRONT of me. Before I knew it, I was in the air. I was falling as the force of gravity pulled me straight down to earth. As I was falling, all these thoughts were circulating in my brain. “This is it, I’m going to die” “I’m only 23” “How are my parents going to react to this news?” “Will my body ever be found?” I felt my soul leaving my body as it was entering death.
I went tumbling down a 150-foot cliff with a bunch of rocks and landed on a sharp edge of a rock on a baby cliff, about 15 feet above sea level. I saw my legs shooting down from the sky lifelessly like a rag doll as my back shattered in pieces. I saw my legs come off. They weren’t attached to me. I cried thinking “Oh great, now I don’t have legs.”
My eyes were closed as I wailed loudly with a broken heart. My heart was beating fast. I could hear the moans of my voice echoing louder and louder. I felt my inner child reveal. I was sad. I tried not to care about what was happening. Caring made it more painful. I just surrendered to being a piece of useless meat.
It took me a while to realize that my legs were actually still attached to me. However, I couldn’t feel anything from the waist down. I tried to lift my legs and nothing happened. The whole lower half of my body felt like a 600-pound fat, heavy dead man. I tried to escape with my hands. I thought of the movie Revenant where Leonardo DiCaprio escapes with his arms after being attacked by a bear. But the rest of my body was on shut down and any attempt to move it was unbearably painful when I tried.
Just before I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the pervert climbed down the mountain and continued to sexually assault me as I laid half-paralyzed. He choked me from the neck with his hands when I screamed “rape” and consistently violated me all night until dawn when he left and returned with 2 Thai men who called the ambulance. He is now spending 5 years in prison.
My body was in a crooked position all night with my back against the wall of the cliff I fell from. I picked up my left leg with my two hands to alternate its position every so often between the inside and outside of the rock I fell on. Imagine someone telling you to keep your arms lifted for 10 hours, how grueling that would feel even just after 1 hour. It felt similar to that, but on a much higher extreme.
When the rescue team arrived, I was gently picked up and placed on a stretcher that was later attached to a zipline supported by several tree branches. It took a very long time to set all of this up. I was getting inpatient. Slowly, I was carried down the mountain, little by little just until my dirty, sweaty and abused body touched the water for the first time in what felt like ages. A touch of liquid has never felt so cleansing.
I was on a rescue boat and taken from one clinic to two hospitals. I was in good hands. I felt the compassion from all the nurses on the boat as they wiped away many tears streaming down my face with tissues. Later that evening, at 2am, I had surgery in Bangkok Hospital in Phuket as my parents were already on their 24-hour flight.
I want to end this on a positive note to say how fortunate I am to have such a loving family and supportive group of friends. This story has shaped my life in so many ways and has taught me many life lessons. I continue to live my life courageously while proceeding with caution. This one incident nearly killed me and created so much havoc on my life and those around me, yet I steer away from playing victim and continue living every moment with no regrets. No mistakes, just life lessons. Today, I have answers that I didn’t have before and I feel more confident about where I stand. As I continue to heal from this life-transforming injury and do my physical therapy, I hope to empower women and shine light on others with trauma, spinal cord injury and other disabilities.