A 19-year-old woman suffered a broken foot and back after she dove off a pier at Daytona Beach, Florida, to save an 8-year-old boy who was drowning Saturday.
Hanna Pignato, 19, was waitressing at a restaurant at around 8 p.m. EDT when she noticed some kind of a commotion at the beach. On figuring out moments later that people were panicking because a young boy was caught in a rip current and could not get out, she rushed to the spot to help.
"I saw the mom screaming and crying. Just hearing her wail terrified me. Then I saw the little boy ... his head just kept going down," Pignato told Daytona Beach News-Journal. "I was just thinking that could be my little sister I would hope someone would save. So I jumped."
Not realizing there was a sandbar below the pier, Pignato made a 20-foot drop. Since the water was less than three feet deep where she landed, she ended up fracturing three of her ribs as well as her foot. "Excruciating pain excruciating pressure, agony," she told Fox35, recalling the incident.
Despite her injuries, she kept on swimming. "I wasn't gonna give up but I knew I wasn't going to save him at that point, which really broke my heart and I was just broken hearted," Pignato said. "I didn't want the baby to die. He wasn't a baby, he was seven years old, eight years old, but still I mean, that's a human life — you just can't look at that and walk away."
At one point, the woman recalled she could barely keep her head above the water as she watched the boy being pulled farther and farther away from the shore. At the end, both Pignato and the boy were rescued by officers from Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue. They were taken to local hospitals for treatment.
Doctors at the Halifax Health Medical Center of Daytona Beach, where Pignato was admitted for treatment, determined after a few tests that she did not need to undergo surgery for her injuries. A few days later, the eight-year-old boy she had tried to save visited her at the hospital.
"He walked up to me and gave me a balloon that said, 'You are the best,'" Pignato said. "He gave me a little hug and I just started bawling my eyes out. I just started giving him kisses on his head."
A GoFundMe page was set up Monday by Pignato's co-workers and friends to cover her medical costs. In just 24 hours, it had raised over $30,000 of its goal of $75,000. "Hanna does not have insurance, and will be on bed rest and out of work for two months. She lives in a third story apartment stair access only so she will be resting at home for these next couple months. She has an amazing support system and is overwhelmingly appreciative of everyone who has been, and will be there for her," the fundraising campaign said.
Pignato said she wanted her story to inspire others to help those in need. "To go out of their way to help people, if you see somebody hungry on the street and you have something extra, give it to them, if you see somebody sad, smile at them," she said.
This article originally appeared in IBTimes US.