Niki Taylor: 'I Feel Like an Old Woman'

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — Model Niki Taylor, who almost died in a car crash last April, suffers from constant pain and lingering nightmares, and faces more surgery as she embarks on a long road to recovery, according to an interview published in Us Weekly magazine on Thursday.

The 26-year-old revealed in a first-person account billed as her first interview since the April 29 crash, that she has lost some of her hair and may require back surgery to fix a curvature of the spine.

After about 40 surgical procedures, "I now have scars all over my stomach — it looks like I have a 16-pack." She said they will never fade.

However the born-again Christian added, "I definitely think the big man upstairs is saying, 'You've gotta live. It is not your time yet."'

Taylor was riding in the passenger seat of a vehicle that smashed into a utility pole on a quiet Atlanta street after its driver lost control while reaching for a ringing cell phone. She suffered severe liver and back injuries, and spent the next two months clinging to life in intensive care. One of her doctors warned her manager that she might not survive.

During that time, she was pumped with painkillers, and she said her body bloated to about four times its usual size because of fluid buildup. Her lungs collapsed, and doctors cut a hole in her throat to help her breathe.

By the end of June, she had recovered enough to take a few steps, and was transferred to a rehabilitation facility. She flew to her Florida home on July 17, and immediately prayed with her six-year-old twins, Jake and Hunter, her children with former husband Matt Martinez.

"But it could be a year before I feel even close to normal," Taylor said in the article. "I sometimes feel like a 26-year-old in the body of an old woman."

The curvature of the spine, or scoliosis, resulted from her two immobile months in bed. Antibiotics caused the hair loss, but it will grow back. The sides of her legs are numb because of nerve damage, she added.

Her modeling career remains on hold as she savors her second shot at life.

"When I look in the mirror, I see a survivor. I see a fragile but strong person. And I love her," she said.