Medical bills mount for comatose former Argos cheerleader Anna Leibenko

·Contributing Writer

When you're young, vibrant and have the world ahead of you, it's hard to imagine anything going wrong.

Doomsday scenarios can sound like the domain of worried parents and anxious folks, the sort that take every precaution before engaging in any activity outside the home.

And when you view life through that prism, travel insurance can seem like an unnecessary expense, particularly if your location is far from any civil conflict and you depart in perfect health.

But in a horrific twist of events, Toronto resident Anna Leibenko experienced that worst-case scenario last Friday while vacationing with friends in Europe.

As the Toronto Star reports, the former Argos cheerleader was partying aboard a catamaran during Croatia's Yacht Week.

Around 6 a.m., Leibenko and a group of new acquaintances decided to take a 3-metre plunge into the sea below.

[ Related: Critically injured Toronto woman stranded overseas ]

Before she could join her friends in the Adriatic, the 24-year-old slipped and hit her head on the stairs, dropping into the water.

"They were screaming out for help because she was unconscious, and they started to pass on the word they needed a doctor," Leibenko's friend, Karina Vottchal, told the Star.

"There was a doctor from Brazil, ten boats down — she ran out in her pyjamas and saved Anna's life."

A helicopter lifted Leibenko to a neurosurgery hospital in nearby Split, Croatia. She had stopped breathing and was immediately hooked up to life support.

Her mother flew to her side. She and her daughter's friends keep vigil at the hospital for the one hour they're allotted to visit the ICU each day.

Leibenko remains in a medically induced coma. Hospital records show she also suffered a number of facial bone fractures, contusions on her brain and lungs and experienced a shortage of breath.

A website set up to raise funds for Leibenko's medical costs notes that she will have to remain in the Croatian hospital for seven to 10 days.

If she improves, she will be able to return to Toronto.

In the meantime, her medical charges are rising at an astronomical rate.

The air ambulance alone will cost over $93,000, according to the website. Medical treatment is as yet undetermined.

The Canadian Press reports that Leibenko's friends and family can't afford to cover the costs.

So far, a mix of loved ones and concerned strangers have donated around $34,000 through the website's PayPal option.

[ More Daily Brew: Is it time to ban drinking on airplanes? ]

Friends and family have also organized a series of fundraising events at around Toronto nightlife locales.

Despite the urgency of her condition, Leibenko's decision not to protect herself with travel insurance has left some with little sympathy for her situation.

A number of Star commenters criticized the Toronto woman for failing to shell out a few hundred extra dollars to protect herself presuming she could "already afford an expensive holiday" and suggesting she wouldn't be receiving media attention were she not young and beautiful.

Others showed more empathy, blasting those who have found it easy to judge from behind a computer screen and wondering where shared humanity has gone.

Underneath the chaos, however, there's a young life in crisis and a family in distress.

There's also a gut-wrenching reminder why travel insurance can be the most important item you take on your trip.

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