A Cayman Islands server who was left in a coma after a severe bout of food poisoning while backpacking in Vietnam says she is “lucky to be alive.”
Sarah Jane Waddell, 21, worked at Craft bar and restaurant on West Bay Road before leaving the island in May to travel around Europe and Asia with fellow Craft employee Tomasz Ryk.
But she became seriously ill after a meal at a restaurant in Hanoi and was rushed to hospital. Her condition deteriorated and she went into a coma for six days.
Doctors believe she suffered from a severe bacterial infection, E. coli, which triggered “septic shock” causing heart complications.
She came out of a coma on Sunday and hopes to fly home to Canada in the next few days to continue her recovery. Family and friends in Canada and Cayman raised $15,000 in a whirlwind campaign to help pay her medical bills and flights for her family.
She said she was overwhelmed by the show of support.
“I am the luckiest girl in the whole world,” Ms. Waddell said. “Nobody thought I was going to live, but with Cayman by my side I did.
“I have truly never got so much support from anyone in my life. It’s so hard to explain the love I can feel from Cayman, from so far away. They all saved my life, truly.”
She said she is adjusting to walking again after nearly a week in a coma. She has been told she could have long-term heart damage as a result of the illness, but she is otherwise expected to recover fully. She added that Mr. Ryk, who returns to Cayman in July, helped save her life, taking her to the hospital, paying her medical bills out of his own pocket and staying with her every day in hospital.
Jasmin Muratagic, a bartender at Craft, said Ms. Waddell had worked at the bar for around a year before leaving to go traveling. He said she had made many friends in Cayman and everyone had been shocked to hear what happened.
“She is a great girl and one of my best friends here in Cayman,” he said. “It is unbelievable what happened. She has a lot of friends here and everyone tried to raise some money and do what we could to help.”
Sue Lee, a family friend in Burlington, Ontario, who organized the GoFundMe campaign, said she was overwhelmed by the contributions from all over the world.
“She is a beautiful soul, so it didn’t surprise me that so many people wanted to support and contribute, but it has put my faith back in humanity,” she said.
Ms. Waddell said she is unsure whether she will return to work in Cayman once she has fully recovered.
“That is to be determined if my parents ever let me out of their sight again,” she said.