SALEM, N.H. (CBS) — A kiss from a visiting daughter brings a smile to her face.
But as she lies in a bed at the Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital with a splintered leg, a broken now-replaced hip, and some angry looking stitched cuts, Donna DeJesus admits her Caribbean vacation didn’t go so well.
“I would be very content not to do it again,” says the 68-year-old grandmother from Methuen.
WBZ-TV’s Ken MacLeod reports.
She and her daughter, Starr, were taking a cab in the Bahamas from the Atlantis Resort and Casino back to their cruise ship the Norwegian Sky when the van’s brakes failed. As the driver frantically pumped them, the van glanced off a pole and a car, and then slammed into a wall.
“I was bleeding everywhere,” says DeJesus. “I was pinned in the van and couldn’t get up because my legs were all mangled. I just couldn’t move.”
Her daughter suffered a broken ankle.
Mother and daughter went to the hospital for a nightmarish 15 hours, racking up an $8,000 bill that her insurer won’t pay because it was incurred out-of-country.
“I don’t know,” laments DeJesus. “If I didn’t give them a credit card, what would’ve happened? Would they have left me out in the road?”
As their ship sailed on without them, frantic family back in Massachusetts felt both frustrated and helpless. It was nearly impossible to get anyone to answer the phone at the hospital in Nassau, where those who did answer gave conflicting accounts of Donna’s status.
That’s when her son decided she needed the best health care has to offer — back here in the Bay State.
So Dion DeJesus hired an air ambulance plane out of Florida, which flew to the Bahamas, picked up his injured Mom and sister, and flew them back home to Massachusetts.
“Finally on the phone she just said ‘Get me home!'” says Dion with a quivering voice. “She was crying and I got kind of emotional myself, and I said ‘Plane’s on its way, Mom.'”
That air ambulance flew into Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, and Donna then went straight to Mass General. That’s where doctors reassessed her injuries, and determined hip replacement surgery was needed.
She’s now undergoing three weeks of physical therapy at the Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital in Salem, New Hampshire near her home. Her hospital room is adorned with get well wishes, and positive vibes.
“I know that I need to do this,” Donna says. “So everyday gets a little bit easier.”
“She’s pretty much bionic from the waist down,” says daughter Dawn McGovern. “Plates and screws in one leg, hip replacement in the other, casts and stitches everywhere else. And she’s still positive. Having a mother like that as a role model makes a big difference in your life.”
“I’m proud and shocked at the same time,” says son Dion, “because I don’t know if I would’ve handled it as good as her.”
As she sat up in her hospital bed flipping through photos of the vacation that quickly went from heavenly to hellish, Donna DeJesus vows she has taken her last cruise.
“Some people say you can get back on the horse,” she says with a chuckle. “But this horse has sailed.”
Her message to travelers is simple — purchase the special travel insurance that covers emergencies like hers. It might be a life-saver. Norwegian Cruise Lines echoes that.
But now, the family has encountered a second nightmare. They’ve hit a brick wall trying to get any information on the accident from Bahamian officials — much less specific insurance information on the cab that crashed.
The DeJesus family is hoping to reclaim at least some of the nearly $30,000 they’ve spent out-of-pocket. They’ve already contacted the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, and are wondering who else they can turn to for help.
Ironically, the cruise line just emailed Donna a customer satisfaction survey. They won’t enjoy reading her response. In fact, she’d like Norwegian to refund her money.
On a much more serious note, this ordeal has been especially hard on Donna DeJesus for another reason.
Back in 1973, she was badly hurt in a horrible accident on I-93 — an accident that killed her husband.