Nikki Lewis was boogie boarding with her new husband, Will Lewis, in the waters of Maui on September 12, four days after their wedding, when a large wave slammed into the 34-year-old bride from Texas.
“It seemed like the wave was just bigger than me standing up, and I’m 6 feet tall, so it just engulfed her,” Ja’Mikal Moorer, a friend of the couple, told KITV. “Kind of landed on top of her and nosedived her into the sand. Big Beach has kind of a steep drop into the water, so it nosedived her into that.”
The impact of the wave caused Nikki’s head to strike the sand, breaking her neck in two places, according to a GoFundMe page created to help with her recovery. The freak accident left Nikki unable to stand or walk on her own, less than a week after stepping down the aisle and exchanging vows and with her husband.
“It took four grown men to get her out of the water — between the waves, the sand, the incline,” Moorer told WFAA.
An off-duty paramedic saw what unfolded and raced into the water to help bring the unconscious bride ashore, and immediately provided medical attention by stabilising Nikki’s neck, which likely saved her from experiencing even more damage, Moorer told WFAA.
Nikki — a mum of two and stepmother to one — remains in a hospital in Honolulu.
“Her fairy-tale wedding trip has turned into a horrible nightmare for herself, her new husband, their children and families,” reads the GoFundMe page.
Despite the dire situation, Nikki has made great strides in her recovery so far, pictures and videos posted by Nikki’s husband to a Facebook page reveal. In the posts, Nikki can be seen smiling as nurses help her rise to her feet and support her as she takes steps with the assistance of a cradle.
While the couple awaits a flight back to North Texas to continue Nikki’s rehabilitation, the medical bills are mounting, their GoFundMe page states. They have raised $52,000 from nearly 650 donors to help out with expenses over the last two weeks.
“I can’t wait for the day we can be back home,” Will — who did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment — wrote in the caption of a photograph of his wife sleeping.
While their marriage may not have begun the way they imagined, Will says he has newfound faith that his wife will one day walk again.
“I was convinced day one of the accident my beautiful wife wouldn’t walk again,” Will posted on the Facebook page. “I was wrong! Mrs. Miracle! She sat up!”
It’s these small moments of progress that give their friends and family hope.
“You just have a renewed faith that everything is going to be fine,” Moorer told NBC 11. “She’s going to get back to being her old self, you can already tell nothing’s going to stop her.”
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE