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Angels In The Wilderness

Hiker Survives Wilderness Ordeal

In the wake of the tale of the three Mt. Hood climbers, and the tragic news about James Kim, many people have questions about survival. “What would I do, if something like this should happen to me? Would I know how to survive in a life-threatening situation? What are the qualities that make a survivor?”

Amy Racina answers these questions, and more, in her compelling true-life survival story, “ Angels in the Wilderness. “

In August 2003, Racina, an experienced backpacker, was 140 miles into a solo hiking trip through California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, when the ground crumbled beneath her, and she plummeted 60 feet.

"So this is how it ends," she thought, seconds before she crashed into a narrow ravine. Then she hit the rock.

Amazed to find herself alive, Racina calmly accessed her situation. Her nose was smashed. A front tooth had snapped off. Her left hip was broken in two places. Her right knee was shattered, an open fracture that exposed bone and tissue, and splattered the rock with blood. She had several other minor fractures. Both legs were so badly damaged that she could not move either one.

Rangers had told her that only a handful of hikers came to this area every year. The closest road access was 25 miles away.

Despite the severity of her injuries, Racina considered herself lucky. She had landed near a small stream. Her pack had fallen nearby. She used her first-aid kit to treat her injuries and bandage her right knee, now a gaping wound. Then she set her mind to the task at hand: survival. Racina says her desire to stay alive kept her motivated.

For three days, Racina dragged her damaged body down the ravine, attempting to get closer to a larger trail, and calling out occasionally for help.

On the third evening, Jake Van Akkeren, hiking nearby with his wife Leslie and a friend, Walter Keiser. heard Racina’s faint cries. Van Akkeren located the severely injured hiker about two hours later.

It was another full day before Racina’s “wilderness angels” could hike out and summon a SAR (Search and Rescue) team to the remote location where she was stranded. Just before nightfall, on the fourth day of her ordeal, Racina was airlifted out in a litter, swinging far below a CHP helicopter. She was rushed to University Medical Center (UMC) in Fresno. Septic shock was already setting in. Doctors said if her rescue had come one day later she would have died from her injuries.

Racina is glad to be alive. She credits four major influences with helping her to survive.

1. Childhood Training. “My parents were calm and rational in the face of any emergency.” Says Racina. “They taught me that giving up is not an option.”

2. Prayer. “I knew that I needed help from some power greater than myself if I was to get out of that ravine alive.” Racina reflects. “I asked God for a miracle.”

3. Determination. “I’m a very stubborn person.” She laughs. “Sometimes it’s good to be stubborn.” Racina was determined to do everything she could to save herself.

4. A Positive Attitude is perhaps the most important survival tool of all. Racina’s ability to see what was good, and not to dwell upon the horror of her situation served her well during her ordeal.

"When I saw Amy, she had a great attitude, and that is so important in making sure they get out OK," said Debbie Brenchly, the first rescue ranger on the scene.

Racina used these same four survival tools to get her through eight surgeries and nine grueling months of physical therapy. Despite her doctors' prognosis -- that she would only walk with a severe limp, -- Racina was determined to hike again in the wilderness she loves.

Today, Racina exudes health and optimism. “I still have a few aches and pains,” she admits. “But I don’t let them slow me down.” She can often be found hiking and backpacking along California’s many trails.

Submitted by:

Amy Racina

Amy Racina’s story is told in her book "Angels in the Wilderness: The True Story of One Woman’s Survival Against All Odds" ( Elite Books 2006) http://www.AngelsInTheWilderness.com © 2007 Elite Books. Permission is granted to any site or individual to reproduce this article online provided a link to http://www.AngelsInTheWilderness .com and this copyright notice is included in such reproduction.




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