£27k raised to bring Northern Ireland crash victim home from Thailand
The family of a Co Down man facing a battle to walk again following a cycling accident in Thailand have praised his courage and thanked supporters after £27,000 was raised in just two days to bring him home safely.
Sait Can Ozdemir (26), from Ballymartin, was seriously injured on Wednesday when he fell from a bike in Chiang Mai, a northern province of Thailand.
It is understood he hit a ditch 2ft deep while cycling down a steep hill.
Within seconds, two friends accompanying Mr Ozdemir found him lying unconscious and his bike nearby in the soil.
Bystanders, including an ex-paramedic, came to his aid followed quickly by emergency services who rushed him to Chiang Mai Ram hospital.
He suffered a broken wrist, a punctured lung, fluid in his lungs and three broken vertebrae, the fragments of which nearly severed his spinal cord. Doctors in Thailand have advised him there is only a small chance he will walk again.
Although his travel insurance is expected to cover his hospital expenses, Mr Ozdemir's family have been told they will need to foot a £45,000 bill to bring him home safely to Northern Ireland by air for further treatment.
On Friday his parents Sedat and Christine, along with siblings Vicki (32) and Kemal (23), set up a fundraising page.
Remarkably, £27,000 has already been donated.
"It's given us a lot of hope," his sister Vicki told the Belfast Telegraph.
On Saturday morning Mr Ozdemir had an operation to put screws in place to realign his spine.
"His spinal cord's not been completely severed so there's a very small chance of him being able to walk again and that is a ray of hope," said Vicki.
"Currently there's a lot of fluid in his lungs and he's losing blood so he's having a lot of transfusions." Mr Ozdemir's mother is keeping a bedside vigil along with two friends who were with him on the round the world trip - Eamonn McCartan and David Cox.
"He's conscious at the minute and he's surprising us. He's very hopeful," said Vicki.
"He's convincing himself this is not going to stop him and he's still going to do everything he wants to with his life.
"If it was anyone else I think he'd be in the depths of depression.
"He's being so positive and we're trying to help him."
She added: "I think the fundraising page and all the comments from his friends is keeping his morale up."
The family often spend time in Mr Ozdemir's father's home country of Turkey.
Before travelling, he worked in a Belfast laboratory carrying out testing for livestock across Ireland.
"He decided to take this trip before he really focused on his career.
"It was to be his last big adventure before he settled down," his sister explained. "He thoroughly enjoyed his work and is very family orientated."
Appealing for the final funds needed, she added: "There's no big or small amount, just anything to help him. He would do absolutely anything to help another person in need."
Mr Ozdemir's brother Kemal said he was amazed by his older sibling's bravery.
"At first we were all really shaken, it was difficult to reassure each other because we're all spread out and he's so far away," he said.
"We felt powerless and I fell to pieces as I'm sure everyone else did. It was really difficult not to be able to jump into action and be in the same room.
"We all want to rush to his side but we don't know if he'll be moved so we're just keeping primed."
Kemal said he was overwhelmed by the support already generated.
"Christmas is a really expensive time but we've been shown it's also really generous and the help so far has went far beyond my expectations."
Kemal said his brother's high fitness levels before the accident and his current fighting spirit gave him hope.
"I've heard he was cracking wise and keeping everybody entertained around him," he said.
"It meant a lot to be able to hear his voice and enthusiasm, I'm not sure I could do that.
"He said to me this won't slow him down, he's going to see the world one way or another, whether he has to crawl or roll around it.
"I'm sure he's putting on a brave face but it's pretty convincing and I'm really proud of him."
To contribute to the fundraiser visit www.gofundme.com and search 'Get Saitcan home'.