Northern Ireland man in horrific Thai bike crash flown back home after friends raise £45k
A Northern Ireland man facing a battle to walk again after an horrific bicycle crash in Thailand has been flown home to Northern Ireland.
Sait Can Ozdemir (26), a Turkish-born laboratory worker who grew up in Ballymartin, Co Down, fell from his bike on December 6.
He had been exploring in Chiang Mai, a northern province of Thailand, with two school friends.
His devastating injuries included five damaged vertebrae in his back, a severely damaged spinal cord, eight broken ribs, two punctured lungs and a broken wrist.
Mr Ozdemir was found unconscious by his friends and a former paramedic who was passing the scene of the accident. They frantically made arrangements to take him to hospital.
His travel insurance covered the medical treatment, but his family were told they needed £45,000 to bring him home for further treatment in Belfast by Medevac. The money was raised within days after support from friends at home.
Yesterday, Mr Ozdemir began the long journey back to Northern Ireland and is due at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast today.
Before leaving, he told the Belfast Telegraph how the "monumental" support from his friends to bring him home in time for the new year has given him hope.
Recalling the accident, Mr Ozdemir said: "In all honesty, it's a bit of a blur and the first few days afterwards remain a bit of a chaotic haze. I remember going downhill at speed, the front wheel rattling wildly out of control, trying to correct it and, after that, nothing."
He was cycling with his friends Eamonn McCartan and David Cox who, along with his mother Christine, have been at his bedside in Thailand since the accident.
Christine said: "I was in Turkey with my husband and daughter - we were supposed to spend Christmas there and fly back to Ballymartin in the new year.
"I just wanted to get the first plane to Thailand. I'm just glad my son's alive. "
Doctors have told her son there is only a small chance he will walk again. "I'm hanging on to the slight possibility he will walk again and hoping for a miracle," Christine said.
Mr Ozdemir said the support he has received has kept him positive.
"It's been difficult in a number of ways logistically with regards to getting home let alone the challenging physical demands of post-surgery recovery," he said.
"But the support has been monumental, overwhelming and very humbling at such a difficult time for myself and my family, so my gratitude is immeasurable for people's generosity at this financially taxing time of year."
His mother said the help had been "life-changing", adding: "The amazing support back home has been such a boost."