By Josh Saunders
A mum whose leg was nearly severed by a MACHETE in a horrific car accident reveals the limb she’s hidden for 22 years by becoming a model.
Claudina Vega was five-years-old when her mum’s truck veered off the edge of a dangerous Mexican road and during the fall a loose machete nearly decapitated her leg.
After being rushed to hospital, surgeons had the challenge of reattaching her calf and ankle back together after the deep cut left it barely hanging on.
She moved to Denver in Colorado, USA, where she had over 20 surgeries to remove infected skin, have skin grafts and halt her good leg from outgrowing the other.
She hasn’t shown her legs since the accident, always hiding them beneath long socks or jeans and never spoke about them to anyone for fear of being bullied.
Until this month, when for the first time in over two decades she’s showing off her pins in a brave photoshoot to empower others with injuries and limb differences.
Claudina, 27, preschool teacher, said: “For 22 years, I have kept my leg hidden away, which is a long time but I finally knew I was ready to reveal it now.
“My leg is very thin, skinny and doesn’t look like my other limb, it’s a white colour which is different to the rest of my body and stands out a lot.
“When I was younger, I was afraid to show my scars, I feared being bullied and how people would react.
“It affected me a lot, when I went to school I would see all the girls wearing skirts and shorts in the summer, I wanted to do it myself but never believed I would.
“Even my mother tried to encourage me to stop hiding my legs but I couldn’t, I had given up on ever showing my legs.
“I never showed them to anybody, I didn’t even mention it to friends. My family and my husband are the only ones who even know about my accident.
“I decided to do a photoshoot to come out of my shell and tell everyone who I am, I’m not hiding it anymore and am revealing it to the world.
“Now I want to help other little girls or adults to know it’s ok to be different.
“I wish I had a role model like that when I was younger.
“I wish someone would have told me to show my leg, rock my scars, but I didn’t have anyone to look up to like that.”
Claudina was injured in a road accident in 1996 when the brakes on her mum’s car stopped working and it plummeted off a cliff.
The accident took place in Guadalajara, Mexico – an area that has roads known for being some of the deadliest in the world.
Claudina said: “The roads were bendy going up the mountains and suddenly the breaks didn’t work and there was a cliff that we flipped and fell down from.
“All I remember hearing was my mum yelling, ‘The breaks don’t work,’ and I blacked out.
“When I awoke, we had fallen quite a long way down but everyone fortunately was alive, it’s a very dangerous road.”
Miraculously the family survived but Claudina was left with life-altering injuries.
She added: “There was blood all over, when I looked down my ankle was hanging off and parts was missing, I couldn’t move and was screaming for help.
“There was a machete in the back of the truck and during the fall, it must have sliced my leg and ankle.
“The cut was very deep it had gone right through, nearly severing it off completely.”
After her accident, she was transferred to Colorado for treatment, where she says her mother worked tirelessly to try to give her a normal life.
Claudina said: “My mother worked three jobs while trying to pay for my hospital bills, I barely saw her, she’s been my rock and so supportive.
“Doctors saved my right leg, they had to shave some skin off some of my thigh to put it onto my leg and had to stop the growth of my other leg to even it out.”
Although she hid her leg, her husband was always very supportive.
Claudina said: “The first time he saw it he cried because he knew what I had been through for the accident and for keeping it hidden away for so long.
“My husband was amazing when I told him about my leg, he told me he didn’t care about that and that he loved me for who I am.”
This year, Claudina found the courage to reveal her legs after seeing Models of Diversity – a modelling agency individuals not traditionally shown in the media.
She’s since been signed by the agency and hopes to inspire others through her future modelling work.
Claudina said: “When I saw Models of Diversity – I saw a lot of people without legs or arms, people who were burned and others.
“It made me realise I’m lucky to be alive, to have two legs and I must tell my story, I spoke to Angel Sinclair and she gave me strength to do the shoot.
“Now I just want to help other people, I want to do commercials and more modelling – I hope that young girls who see me will realise that it’s ok to be different and it will inspire them.”
She’s now signed with Models of Diversity (MoD) an agency who aim to promote models not typically shown in the media and selected her due to her inspiring story.
Angel Sinclair, 55, the agency’s founder said: “One of our Models of Diversity’s goals is to encourage all kinds of people who would have dismissed from their mind any thought of being “beautiful”, purely on account of not being like the professionals we see all the time.
“I love that she was able to face her fears and overcome them with stunning results.
“I’m sure others will feel inspired and empowered by her story and gain confidence from it.
“A disability doesn’t automatically disqualify anyone from being beautiful.
“It’s wrong that people should feel it’s something to hide especially if it’s a significant part of who we are. Well done Claudina.
“She is beautiful and shouldn’t feel she has to hide anything.”
For more information visit: www.modelsofdiversity.org/