PHUKET: On an island where almost any crash that isn’t fatal is missed in the news, countless personal struggles and victories of the victims of Phuket road accidents are overlooked.
Liberty Jefferson had been an English-language teacher at Kanjonkietsuksa School for three and half years, before her was leg shattered in a motorbike crash.
Heading north on Thepkrasattri Road from Phuket Town, Ms Jefferson realized that she was going the opposite direction of her home, so she stopped at a break in the road to make a u-turn.
"I always get turned around in town! Too many one ways and lack of street signs," she told the Phuket Gazette
While she made a u-turn, a pickup truck came speeding through the yellow light, which turned red before the vehicle had left the intersection, and she was hit – hard.
"I turned and just – bash – that was it. I woke up in the ambulance," she said.
Ms Jefferon’s leg and ankle were broken in six places.
After receiving emergency care, Ms Jefferson stayed on Phuket for two surgeries and two months of bed rest. However, the surgeries were unsuccessful and Ms Jefferson was forced to return home to the US with a crippled foot.
In June, she went to a local medical specialist for a checkup on how her foot was healing.
"They said that they had no good news for me – that actually the bones have not healed properly. My ankle was shattered so badly they had to put this external fixator in to keep the bones stable," Ms Jefferson said.
"It looks like I will need three further surgical procedures until the leg is fully corrected. If I do not get any financial help from the government here, the cost will be astronomical," she explained.
Earlier last week Ms Jefferson, family and friends came together in the hopes of raising about US$5,000 at a silent auction and a concert held at a local bar in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon.
"The fundraiser was actually awesome. Way better than I ever expected… such a good turnout, with people I have known for years and total strangers who just wanted to lend their support. We have nearly made our goal of US$5,000," she told the Gazette
"Luckily, I did not have to pay for treatment while in Thailand. I was fully covered by my insurance, that is why I did not go home after the first emergency surgery. I thought it would be a better idea to get it taken care of in Phuket, since that is where I had medical coverage," she explained.
Ms Jefferson, who has no medical insurance in the US, has since been turned away by two government aid programs.
However, she explained, the son of a surgeon that specializes in her type of
injury heard about the fund-raising efforts. The son contacted his father, the surgeon, who has now agreed to see her.
Financially unable to support herself since the accident, Ms Jefferson has relied on family and friends to make ends meet. She currently sleeps on a family friend’s couch and is forced to rely on money her mother gives her each month.
"Until my leg is corrected, it is difficult to stand for a long time or walk any sort of distance. I hobble around, walking on two still-broken bones, always in some sort of pain. And as the weather gets colder, the pain gets worse," she explained.
Ms Jefferson said that she originally had no intentions of moving back to the US so soon, due to the current state of the economy and the difficulty of finding jobs there.
"I was planning on being abroad for at least another year, possibly more. Despite my accident, I still love Thailand and Phuket," she said.
"I spent three and half years there and they were some of the best times in my life," she added.
"I met so many great people, but more importantly I got to teach so many wonderful students. Teaching really made me realize what I want to do long term and regardless of the stresses of work and teaching, it just take one smile or hug from one of my lovely students to make everything better. I miss them a lot. I miss Thailand in general. It is a lovely place," she said.
Despite her passion for Phuket and Thailand, Ms Jefferson explained that she wished she had been taken to an international hospital instead of a government hospital after the crash.
"I've nothing against the government hospitals, it’s just they are way overworked and understaffed. As a foreigner in an emergency situation, in an overcrowded hospital, where you get very little attention, it was just as scary as the accident," she explained.
Ms Jefferson proposed to the Gazette
the idea of having 'In case of emergency please take me to international hospital
' on insurance cards in Thai and English for those, who, like herself, are knocked unconscious in an accident.
"Either way, I am lucky and thankful to be alive, Thailand is a wonderful place, and if you have ever thought about teaching before, give it a shot, it’s a wonderful experience," she said.
“I hope to get healed up and teach again some time soon!”