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Community rallies to help mermaid

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Published:   |   Updated: September 6, 2013 at 07:36 AM

WEEKI WACHEE - A Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid who recently injured her leg on a boat propeller off the coast of Hernando Beach was released from the hospital Wednesday.

Samantha Maywell, 24, is scheduled to have surgery next Tuesday at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, according to friends and park staff, with an anticipated five-day recovery period.

"They'll take something out, and put a plate in her knee, and hopefully that will be the last surgery," said John Athanason, media relations specialist at Weeki Wachee Springs. "She's a strong girl. She was really excited, and I think they're all ready to get out of there for a little while."

Maywell has received an outpouring of support from Hernando County residents and businesses. Texas Roadhouse in the Western Way Plaza off State Road 50 donated 10 percent of meal prices to Maywell from customers who mentioned her Thursday. Weeki Wachee mermaids were also there in tails acquiring donations. Among them was Deidra Rodgers. "She is going to pull through, and we expect her to have a full recovery, and come back," she said. "We miss her. We miss her every day."

Athanason said Maywell was not able to attend the event because she could not put any pressure on her leg and was resting. However, Maywell's mother attended.

Other local businesses are in the process of organizing similar fundraising efforts for Maywell, according to Athanason. More details will be released about those events as they become available.

Athanason said Maywell is very appreciative of the community's support and that they are hoping to soon create a "thank you" video from Maywell as she continues her recovery.

"She'll pull through," Athanason said. "We call it 'mermaid strong.' She has a lot of support and friends, and of course all of the girls miss her here, as do we."

A Facebook donation page titled, "Please Help Mermaid Samantha," was created by Maywell's sister to help raise money for Maywell to pay medical bills stemming from the accident. The page includes a "donate" button for those who wish to make a contribution online.

"The poor kid, she's got a daughter also," said Barbara White, mother of Maywell's friend and fellow mermaid, Danielle DeMonaco. "I believe her kid's 5, and all the bills are coming in, and there's no way she's going to work for a long time."

According to the donations page, Maywell was in Gulf waters on a pontoon boat at night with friends when the waters became rough.

The group decided to head back to shore, but they were hindered by winds keeping them in the channel, the page shows. Another boat nearby drifted toward them, and Maywell went to the back of the pontoon boat and sat, attempting to push the drifting boat away.

A large wave struck and threw her off the back of the pontoon and into the spinning propeller, nearly severing her left leg.

"Her leg was broken in three places, and was almost severed right off," White said.

Passengers aboard the boat beside theirs took immediate action, got Maywell out of the water, bandaged her leg with a shirt to stop the bleeding and then took her to shore, according to the page.

Maywell was treated at a boat ramp by Hernando County Fire Rescue and transported to the hospital by ambulance, where she underwent about six hours of emergency surgery. A trauma team rebuilt Maywell's left knee and ankle, according to the page, and additional reconstructive surgery on her tendons and ligaments was required last week.

According to one post on Maywell's donation page, a respondent shared Maywell's story on Ellen DeGeneres' social networking site, and is encouraging others to do the same.

mreinig@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5271

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