Gliding across the water’s surface, I was amazed by the creatures swimming beneath me.
Seeing sharks, a spotted manta ray and a green sea turtle, I was giddy with excitement.
It was December 2022, and my husband Chase, then 37, and I were on holiday in Mexico.
A couple at our hotel, Mike and Mindy, had invited us on a diving trip.
I’d dived once before, but wasn’t confident, so while the others explored below the waves I floated peacefully above.
This is incredible, I smiled, at the brightly coloured fish.
Heading to our second location, I’d only been in the sea a few minutes when a drop in the water’s temperature sent me back to the boat for a break.
As I got closer to the boat, the captain was facing away from me.
Grabbing hold of the ladder with one hand, I removed one of my flippers with the other.
But as I bent down to remove the second one, the boat started moving.
The captain doesn’t know I’m here, I fretted.
Before I had time to pull my lower body out of the water, I felt something sharp slice through my stomach, legs and groin in quick succession.
As chunks of my butchered flesh floated to the surface, I realised I’d been slashed by the propeller.
In shock, I let go of the ladder, trembling uncontrollably.
By now, the boat was six metres away.
‘Help, come back!’ I screamed over and over, holding my stomach together with one hand and paddling with the other.
Spotting me in a pool of my own blood, the captain turned the boat around.
It felt like a lifetime waiting for him to reach me and pull me from the water.
As I lay on the deck, blood gushed from my deep gashes.
‘Please help me,’ I begged, fearful I was going to die.
‘Please help me.'
‘We’re going to get you help,’ he said confidently, covering me with a towel.
From below the water, Chase saw the boat doing abnormal manoeuvres.
Feeling something was wrong, he surfaced to see.
‘What happened?’ he asked, terrified as he heard me scream.
In shock, I couldn’t find the words to explain.
‘I didn’t see her and the propeller hit her,’ the captain said for me.
Peering under the towels, Chase had tears rolling down his cheeks, and I knew it was bad.
‘Please be strong,’ he begged, kneeling beside me.
When we reached the shore, an ambulance was waiting.
Closing my eyes, I focused my energy on the breathing techniques I’d learned as a yoga instructor.
But as the pain grew unbearable, a radiant white light filled my vision.
I can choose to let go and sleep eternally… or stay and fight, I thought.
‘Please don’t go to sleep. You need to stay alive,’ came Chase’s voice in my ear.
Feeling like I was slipping away, the white light got brighter, but I made the decision to stay and fight.
Chase rode with me to hospital and, when we arrived 20 minutes later, Chase gave me one final kiss before docs wheeled me into emergency surgery.
When I came to after, Chase was holding my hand at my bedside.
‘I love you so much,’ I sobbed.
I listened in shock as a doctor told me that there were lacerations across my leg, groin, lower abdomen, and vulva area, ranging from three to 30 centimetres in length and three to four centimetres deep.
There was also a 20-centimetre laceration with bone exposure on my left shin, partial loss of the tibia and patella tendon, and a 30-centimetre wound that stretched from my groin to my hip.
Miraculously, a blood clot in my femoral artery, which had been severed in the accident, had prevented me from bleeding out and dying on the boat.
‘It’s still possible you might lose your lower leg and you may never walk again,’ the doctor warned.
Back under the knife twice more, surgeons worked to repair the artery in my vulva and another in my leg.
My mum Maria Elena, 63, arrived at my side after five days, having flown in.
‘Keep fighting,’ she smiled, squeezing my hand.
And after three weeks recovering in Mexico, a fundraiser set up by a friend reached over $196,000 – enough to charter a medical plane and transfer me home.
There, I had three more ops to repair the lost tissue and bone from my groin and shin, and was given skin grafts on both areas.
‘It’s still possible you might lose your lower leg and you may never walk again.'
Docs moved half my calf muscle to the front of my leg to protect my shin, along with other procedures.
Determined to move again, Chase helped me with gentle yoga stretches in my hospital bed to help my blood flow.
And 18 days later, I was strong enough to go home.
Unable to bear weight, I relied on a wheelchair and needed help around the house.
So Mum moved in as my carer.
‘I couldn’t have done this without you,’ I told her and Chase.
Seven months on from my accident, docs can’t believe how well I’m recovering.
I’ve even started learning to walk again.
I encourage others to take precautions around boats.
But now I know I can get through anything!