When pretty Abigail Barragry plummeted 100ft from a balcony, doctors didn’t expect her to survive. Abigail, 30, faced death after breaking virtually every bone in her body after falling eight floors from the apartment in Malaysia.
And medics warned her devastated family that even if miraculously she pulled through, she might never walk. Yet today – following four months in hospital and 13 operations, Abigail, from Sheffield, says the terrifying incident has changed her life for the better.
And incredibly, she credits the accident – which she believes was a twist of fate – for meeting the love of her life, surveyor James Coupe, 30.
'Before I had my fall, I was a perfectionist over my looks,' says Abigail who now manages to limp with a stick, 'I spent hours choosing exactly the right clothes, getting ready to go out and exercised five days a week in the gym.
‘Now, inside my body I have four plates, a screw and a foot long metal rod. I have scars all over my body and will never be physically able as I used to be. But having my fall has put my life in perspective and incredibly I have never been happier in myself.
'I feel so lucky to be alive. If I hadn’t had this freak accident, James and I never would have met. We never stop making one another smile and every day I feel lucky to be alive.'
Abigail’s life was turned upside down on New Year’s Day 2011.
The psychology graduate was working as an arts therapist with children with special needs at a centre in Kualar Lumpar, Malaysia.
She recalls: “It was 2am in the morning and I’d been partying, seeing in the New Year with a few drinks with friends. I felt dizzy and ran out of the apartment onto the balcony.
'All I wanted was some fresh air but as I reached the balcony, I slipped in my heels and the next thing I knew I found myself hanging over the balcony, my hands gripping the rail. Even now I don’t know exactly how I got there.'
For a terrifying few seconds, she felt the world had stopped.
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion,' she says, 'I remember looking up at my hands and feeling sheer fleeting panic as I realised they were gripping the balcony but my body was hanging over the edge.
'Then I saw my hands slipping, It was as if they were not my hands and I realised I was going to fall.
Abigail came round as she was being wheeled into hospital. 'The pain was overwhelming, just indescribable. A friend was at my side and I was begging him not to leave me. I truly felt I was going to die.'
In fact, Abigail’s condition was so critical that it took surgeons ten hours in the operating theatre to stabilise her condition.
The next two weeks passed as a blur as Abigail fought for her life in intensive care.
'Lying in my hospital bed unable to even lift a glass or wipe my own face I wondered if I had actually died and this was hell.'
Worse was to come when doctors explained she could lose her right leg and she would probably spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
After four months in the Malaysian hospital she was finally discharged in a wheelchair but decided to come home to the UK with her mum.
'I needed so much help. I’d lost over a stone in weight and was so frail. At the same time, I needed further treatment and it seemed easiest to get it in the UK.' Against all the odds Abigail’s leg was saved. But her legs were so badly damaged she could only get around in a wheelchair.
But despite this, she didn’t give up. Her determination paid off and gradually Abigail was able to haul herself out of a wheelchair and walk using crutches.
And in November 2011 – after being persuaded to go to a local pub for a drink - she met James. 'A mutual friend introduced us and I thought he was gorgeous. We clicked straightway.'
After talking online for a few days, she was thrilled when James asked her out for a drink.
'I felt incredibly nervous,” she admits, “but he never saw me as the ‘patient’ only as the positive person I still am. I did wonder if he’d be put off by my terrible scars but he simply doesn’t seem to see them.
'We never stop making each other smile and laugh – he’s my soulmate.'
Although she faces further surgery to her leg, she believes her near death experience has had a positive effect on her life. 'If you’d told me I’d be happy with all these scars I’d never have believed it,' she says, 'Of course what happened was terrible. But I’ve found joy in the smallest achievements and a new appreciation of how fantastic it is to be alive.
Abigail now intends to go back to work and hopes one day to return to Malaysia. /dailymail.co.uk/