- will grant
- From BBC News in Puerto Escondido (Mexico)
Like all horror stories, Georgia Lowry started off harmlessly.
In a lively hostel in Puerto Escondido, Georgia, Mexico has been trying to make sense of the past few days, fiddled with his phone and surrounded by other backpackers, shortly after being released from hospital.
Sure, she went through a real nightmare—and it’s no surprise that, since the episode, she’s had difficulty sleeping.
She, her twin sister Melissa, from Berkshire, southern England, and a few other friends decided to join a boat trip on the Manialtepec Lagoon in Mexico. It is a place of natural beauty, where the mangroves are full of rich wildlife.
However, its shallow waters are also home to crocodiles and it is time to hatch – something the group did not know.
‘Was it fight or flight’
“Actually, I told the guide, ‘This looks like a place where alligators live,'” Georgia told me with a smile. The band tightly wrapped around her wrist is proof that she was right.
The guide – apparently a German citizen who was not registered with the tourism office and has since disappeared – insisted it was safe to swim there. As the group enjoyed an afternoon dip in the coolness of the afternoon (not the midnight dip initially reported), Melissa was suddenly pulled underwater.
“It was terrible, wasn’t it?” Georgia said, turning to the others in the group, who nodded.
A local environmentalist told me it was probably a female crocodile defending her baby. The animal followed Melissa on three separate occasions, piercing her belly and leg.
However, instead of looking helplessly, Georgia reacted and repeatedly punched the crocodile’s nose.
“It was fight or flight,” she recalls, “and you have to fight for the people you love.”
One of the friends, Ani crossed the mangroves and asked for help. A nearby boat with a different group of tourists heard the screams and proceeded for him.
“I pushed through the undergrowth using my paddle,” said local sailor and ornithologist Lalo Escamilla, who went into shallow water to help the twins.
Lalo took me to the site where the attack took place and explained that properly trained sailors like him are concerned that the irresponsible actions of an unscrupulous guide could harm their business.
“They are not guides,” he says of foreigners living in Puerto Escondido who seek tourists for cheap boat trips, hurting locals. “They’re not federally approved experts, they don’t know the place. That’s the problem.”
Once on board, it was clear that Melissa’s injuries were fatal. In addition to wounds and deep cuts, he had water in his lungs and a broken wrist. She would later develop sepsis (generalized infection) in her ruptured bowel.
Such was Georgia’s body of adrenaline that she did not realize the extent of her injuries until they reached a private hospital in the city.
“It wasn’t until the nurse opened my fist to wipe my hand that I realized he had been bitten too,” Georgia said. Apparently, all his attention was focused on the twins, who by this time had fallen into an induced coma.
Calling her parents was the next difficult moment as it was almost 4 o’clock in the UK.
“When I was told that his condition was getting worse, I had to tell his family.”
Luckily, Melissa is now out of her coma. After I talked to Georgia, she went to visit her sister in the hospital and said she already looked strong.
“We are all very happy,” Georgia said in a message.
However, the road to full recovery will be long. Mexican doctors and the British embassy have been “great,” Georgia says.
Melissa will have to recover from her physical injuries and both women will need time to deal with their emotional and mental consequences. Georgia says she is having trouble sleeping and that pictures of the attack keep pouring out of her head.
The only thing she can count on – at least until her family moves to Mexico – is the support of the other travelers and backpackers she is with. They have already formed a family of sorts, a combination of friends from the UK, France, India, and others.
The “hero twin sister” label is still not comfortable for Georgia. For now, she just wants a chance to recover from her terrible ordeal and catch her breath again after the episode.
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