“I was getting a football out of the water,” Nikki Berthiaume recalls, “and I started swimming back to the boat.

And when I got closer, they threw out a rope to me, and I grabbed on to get on the boat. 

I didn’t know that the propeller was on. 

The rope ended up going into the propeller, pulling me in and under.”

That’s the last thing the 20-year-old remembers before waking up in a hospital bed. 

She says “I knew that I had lost my arm.”

Nikki’s life changed forever back in May, when she and a girlfriend accepted an invitation to go boating in Boston.

She says that when she went into the water, the boat was anchored and off. 

That boat’s captain Ben Urbelis now charged with drunk boating and negligent operation. 

Nikki has come a long way in a short time, but she says understanding what happened took a while. 

“I just remember I was very calm, and just ok with it and stuff, but it didn’t hit me until a lot later.”

The boat’s propeller cut through the top of her head and her left eye socket; slicing through her abdomen and both her legs.

Her wounds were so deep, doctors had to use hundreds of staples to close the cuts. 

It’s hard to imagine, but Nikki suffered even more. 

“I have radial nerve damage with this hand too;” she says. 

“So it wasn’t just me living my life without my right arm.  It was me living my life with a very limited left arm. It was a lot to take in.” 

Her parents say it’s hard to watch their daughter struggle. 

“She’s saying she likes to do things by herself,” her mother Debi DePasquale says. 

“And sometimes it’s hard to let her!  So I just have to turn away and let her do her thing.”

Her father Lionel Berthiaume says he can hardly believe her progress.

He says “When you look back at some of the things she’s doing, and you look back and say it’s only been just over four months you can’t help but be proud of all the things she’s done.” 

Nikki’s a fighter who faces life’s challenges every day. 

“Everything takes ten times longer,” she laughs.  “But I can still do it. It’s just trial and error.”

She says accepting help from other people is probably the most difficult thing right now. 

“I have a rule that I have to try it at least once. And if I have to ask for help then I’ll need help,” she admits.

“So it’s hard, because you don’t want to hurt the people who are trying to do a good thing. So that’s difficult for me.”

Nikki is thankful for her blessings.  

“I’m very lucky that I had the injuries that I did, they could have been so much worse.” 

She pauses and adds, “You just try to look at the positive things.”

Nikki has already been fitted for a prosthetic arm, which she expects to get sometime in the next few weeks. 

Her family and friends are planning a fundraiser to help defray the cost of future surgeries and ongoing medical care. 

For more information on the fundraiser, visit the event’s Web site. To donate to Berthiaume’s medical expense fund, visit her Plumfund Web site.

(Copyright (c) 2015 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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