A young graduate enjoying a holiday in Hungary following a family wedding has suffered a life-changing injury after diving from a paddle board.
Michael Wells from West Linton in the Scottish Borders was gearing up to start his dream job at a large energy company in September, after graduating with a Masters degree from the University of Strathclyde.
At the end of August, the 28-year-old travelled with twin brother David to Hungary to attend their cousin’s wedding.
After attending the celebrations at Lake Balaton with their sister Seòna and her partner, the group returned to their favourite swimming spot with their parents the following day.
“He remembers hearing his neck break when his head hit the seabed.”Seòna Wells
The group hired paddle boards, and Michael was paddling with his Mum sitting on the back of the board when he decided to go for a swim and dove into the water.
They were about 50 metres from the shore, but the water was cloudy and deceptively shallow.
“He remembers hearing his neck break when his head hit the seabed,” Seòna told STV News.
“Most people forget details like that when they go through something traumatic, but it’s a crystal-clear memory for him.”
Immediately he was completely unable to move his arms or legs. Michael knew he was paralysed and believed he would drown, but somehow managed to hold his breath.
“I thought he was dead.”Seòna Wells
He floated to the surface, face down, and was eventually fished out and brought ashore by his brother, David.
“I thought he was dead – his face was blue, and his eyes were wide open but not moving. I didn’t believe there was any chance of him surviving until my dad gave him mouth-to-mouth, and the colour returned to his face,” Seòna said.
Feeling like she had been brought back down to earth, Seòna began to give him chest compressions alongside her mother, Christina, while dad Andy kept giving him rescue breaths until emergency services arrived.
He was airlifted to an intensive care unit in a hospital with neurosurgical facilities 100km to the north in a city called Győr, where he spent 12 days before being brought back Glasgow and admitted to the National Spinal Injuries Unit at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).
“He never lost his will to live.”Seòna Wells
“We are very fortunate to be an extremely close family. This is probably one of the most traumatic things that will ever happen to us, but somehow we have managed to hold it together and support Michael to the best of our abilities,” Seòna said.
“He has a very high fracture, and it’s going to be a long recovery – he will most likely never be able to move from the neck down again, but we are focusing on the small victories.
“For now, we are trying to get him off the ventilator so he can learn to breathe on his own, and get the feeding tube out so he can relearn to swallow, and eat.
“He’s always been a massive foodie, loved watching all those cooking shows and baking, making his own pizza dough – it will be good for him to be able to eat on his own again.
“Some people, when something like this happens, might wake up and think ‘there’s no point in living anymore’. He never lost his will to live. He has been fighting the whole time, and knows how lucky he is to be alive.”
The Wells family are now hoping to bring him home to West Linton once medical staff have given him the all-clear.
Michael’s parents, who are both former NHS employees, plan to come out of retirement to take care of him full-time.
“That’s why we started the fundraiser – it’s a very personal, traumatic thing to make so public, but his care will be expensive.
“Certain things are covered by the NHS and local council, but we need to find a way to fund specialist equipment to improve his quality of life.”
Seòna and David published a comprehensive GoFundMe page on October 19, and it has already raised £56,000 as of October 20. The pair hope to raise enough to ensure Michael has everything he needs to live a full life.
“It makes us very hopeful for his future to see not only friends and family, but also strangers rooting for him.”Seòna Wells
Seòna said: “It’s been so overwhelming, really – to see the amount of support he has. It makes us very hopeful for his future to see not only friends and family, but also strangers rooting for him.
“As tragic as it is, we very nearly lost him. We’re incredibly lucky we were all there together.
“He still has a long slow road ahead of him, but we will be with him for every part of his journey.”
The fundraiser to help support Michael’s rehabilitation and future can be accessed here, on GoFundMe.