AN inspirational young woman who suffered 96 per cent burns in a horrific French Alps coach crash last year is back skiing weeks after learning to walk again.
And despite her trauma, heroic Catrin Pugh has already vowed to return to the French mountains to ski there again.
Former Castell Alun sixth form student Catrin, of Rossett, is continuing to recover from injuries sustained in the crash last April.
And remarkably, just weeks after learning how to walk again, Catrin has now started skiing too.
She has taken trips to Llandudno’s dry ski slope in recent weeks, where she has progressed to skiing without support by her side, attached to a bungee chord which a volunteer holds for her.
“The best way to describe it was like a Zimmer-frame on skis,” she said.
“I then progressed to just holding a bar in front of me, and now I’m skiing on my own. It’s really good.
“I love skiing and the accident hasn’t stopped me from wanting to ski.”
The courageous 20-year-old is hopeful of going skiing abroad once again this winter.
This will mean facing her fears and being a passenger once more on the dangerous hairpin bends of the French Alps, which almost claimed her life.
“I’m going to be scared, I know that,” she said.
“I’d never go in a coach again.
“It would have to be someone I trust to drive me.
“I’ll try and focus on something else, or listen to music.
“It’s something I’ve got to get over if I want to ski again.”
Catrin was one of more than 50 British people travelling back to the UK from ski resort Alpe d’Huez, having worked in a hotel in the town for the 2012-13 ski season.
The bus crashed and burst into flames as it travelled down a steep mountain road.
After months of intensive treatment at Whiston Hospital on Merseyside, including more than 200 operations, Catrin is recovering at home.
During her three months in intensive care on life support, Catrin underwent extensive skin grafts, including receiving skin from her mother Sara, a teacher at St Peter’s Primary School in Rossett, and brother Rob, 23, as well as skin removed from donors after their deaths from the Liverpool skin bank and a “spray” of cells cultured from her own skin.
Catrin, a former pupil at Darland High School in Rossett, has also been nominated for a Pride of Britain award by ITV newsreader Mary Nightingale and countless numbers of friends and family.
She spoke of the attention she has received since going public with her story on
“It’s been a really positive response,” she said.
“I’ve had people coming up to me and telling me I’m their inspiration. It’s surprised me because I don’t think what I’ve done is that special.
“I was in the car at Alyn Waters and a woman came over and said ‘Are you Catrin Pugh?’
“When I said ‘Yes’, she told me it had made her day to meet me.
“If I’m having a positive effect on people, then I’m happy.”
“I was at home and I got a text from my friend Amber saying congratulations on your Pride of Britain nomination. I knew nothing about it!
“Then I saw that Mary Nightingale had nominated me and my friends started rallying round on social media asking people to nominate me.
“I’ve watched Pride of Britain and never thought what I’ve been through deserves an award – I just got burned.
“But it’s a good news story and if I am invited to go, I’d happily go along.
“It could lead into what I want to do, which is to help people deal with traumatic experiences.
“The effect of burns needs to be publicised. Burns victims are a small community and it doesn’t get much coverage.
“I’d like to change that.
“There aren’t many well-known major burns victims out there – there’s Katie Piper and Simon Weston, but not many.
“It deserves more exposure.”
Catrin receives hours of treatment on a daily basis with her physio Debbie Edwards, and has recently taken to picking strawberries – at Bellis Brothers Garden Centre in Holt – in order to increase the range of movement in her hands.
“My condition is improving all the time.
“I can stand for longer, do a lot more things for myself.
“It’s nice to be able to do normal things like meeting up with my friends and going into town.
“I got the feeling back in my fingers recently – that was a good moment.
“Before then I could not feel surfaces, temperature, I couldn’t tell what things were through touch.
“The strawberry picking has really helped.”
Catrin’s mother Sara, expressed her thanks to people for their help and support since the accident.
“The support has been overwhelming and we’d like to say thanks to everyone who has helped and supported us, and to everyone who has fundraised for Catrin. It has made a big difference.”