Alton Towers survivor says love saved me from darkest days after losing leg

As I walked down the aisle in my beautiful gown towards my soon-to-be husband, I felt so emotional. Waiting for me was the love of my life, Dino Manciocchi, our seven-month-old son Vinnie. With the acoustic version of Frank Sinatra's Fly Me To The Moon playing, I knew I had everything I had ever wanted.

My dad, Brian, escorted me to Dino and we exchanged our vows, promising to love each other completely and forever, as I cried tears of joy. I couldn't quite believe how amazing it felt to be in this moment. After everything I had been through, this was true happiness.

But it had been a process of more than six years of mental and physical recovery get to this point and the man standing next to me had seen me through some incredibly difficult times and had helped to heal me. His love has transformed my life.

In June 2015, my life changed forever when I was injured in the Smiler crash at Alton Towers. I was in the front row of a car on the rollercoaster when it hit an empty carriage on the track – I was one of 15 people hurt in the incident.

I was seriously injured and as doctors battled to save my leg in the weeks following the accident, sepsis led to them having to amputate it through the knee. I was devastated. As an active 19-year-old doing a degree in international spa management, I had plans to travel the world and in just a few seconds my whole life changed. In those early days I was utterly inconsolable.

"No one will want me like this!" I wailed to my distraught mum, Karen. It really felt as though my life was over.

I had 100 pairs of shoes at home, as I loved high heels, and I cried thinking I would never be able to wear heels again or feel feminine. But after numerous operations I had a prosthetic leg made – it was a pink sparkly Genium X3. As the months passed and I slowly grew used to it, I began to gain strength from embracing new challenges and I got a lot of support from my friends and family.

Over the next few years, I went through lots of highs and lows – I got to walk the catwalk at London Fashion Week and I became involved in Barts Charity Trauma Appeal, along with rapper Professor Green.

I suffered from depression as a result of the accident, but last year I finally freed myself from taking medication and I also received my multimillion pound compensation from Merlin Entertainments, the company that owns Alton Towers. The money will be used to fund a lifetime of treatment and replacement limbs, but to finally have it resolved felt very freeing.

However, it was falling in love with Dino, 27, that was the thing that really changed everything for me. I had known him for a while, as he's the brother of my best friend Christina, but it wasn't until 2017 that we started dating. We quickly realised that we had so much in common and we really clicked.

In December 2018, he proposed to me on a romantic weekend away at Mottram Hall in Cheshire. He scattered rose petals on the bed. At the time I posted on Instagram, "Can't believe my best friend asked me to marry him. I'm so excited for our life together."

I then became pregnant with our son Venanzio – Vinnie for short – who was born in March this year. I was overjoyed at his arrival although that wasn't without drama. He was born via an emergency C-section and spent three nights in the neonatal unit.

Giving birth to our boy just brought everything together – it was life-changing and it felt wonderful to be a mother. We had become a real family – the three of us and our dogs.

We had planned a big wedding in Florence, as Dino's family are Italian, in September 2020 but, like many other couples all over the world, we had to cancel it due to the pandemic. We then rearranged it for July this year but, again, we had to cancel as Italy had not opened up for weddings.

We decided that we really just wanted to be married – having the wedding put on hold twice had been really frustrating. So we sat down and decided to do it and we planned it in just a month.

We had the wedding on 23 October at Bartle Hall Hotel near our home in Preston.

it was an intimate affair with 50 family members and friends in a beautiful barn in the grounds of the hotel during the day and then a few more friends joined us in the evening. So it did grow in the end – Dino joked that, if you know me, it was always going to grow into a bigger event!

The theme was autumnal and the bridal party stayed at the hotel the night before the wedding, drinking prosecco and getting excited about the day ahead. Dino's sister Christina was my maid of honour.

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Getting ready for the wedding was fun and, as I slipped my dress on, I became quite overwhelmed. My mum was really tearful when she saw me and so was my dad. I didn't wear heels on the day – I decided it was more comfortable to wear flats – but I felt as though I floated down the aisle towards Dino and Vinnie.

Exchanging vows was emotional and it was so lovely to have Vinnie with us. That moment when we were declared husband and wife was really special.

From the despair I felt in my darkest days in hospital to being the happiest I've ever been – suddenly it all made sense. As I said those vows I knew I had my whole world right there. I told Dino, "I love you for who you are and the happiness you have brought into my life. You make me feel so loved every single day."

Dino told me, "I knew from the start that I wanted to spend my life with you."

We walked up the aisle floating on air to U2's With Or Without You with our guests blowing bubbles – which was really magical.

Our first dance was to Justin Bieber's Anyone and as we held each other it just felt amazing to be married at last.

We are still going ahead next year with a blessing in Italy, which will be more like a vow renewal in a beautiful place – it feels important to do that too.

We now have our whole lives ahead of the three of us and are really excited about what the future holds for us. I would give anything to have my leg back, but ultimately I don't regret what happened as I believe it led me to where I am today and I couldn't be happier."

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