She Went for a Desert Hike. Then, a Moment of 'Utter Terror'

Claire Nelson survived more than 3 days in Joshua Tree National Park after falling from boulder
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2018 3:33 PM CDT
She Went for a Desert Hike. Then, a Moment of 'Utter Terror'
Nelson is thankful to be alive.   (Getty Images/narvikk)

For Claire Nelson, her moment of "complete and utter terror" came in the middle of a hike in California's Joshua Tree National Park. Per the BBC, the New Zealand native, who was visiting the US and cat-sitting for friends, headed over to the park on May 22 for a solo trek. But instead of some exercise and sun, she reenacted James Franco's 127 Hours after falling 22 feet off a boulder and smashing her pelvis, the New York Post reports. "I knew there was nothing I could do to stop myself," the 35-year-old says, per the BBC. "It was like going in slow motion." In terrible pain, barely able to move, and with no phone service, Nelson first panicked, then kicked into survival mode. That included popping aspirin, crafting a sun shield out of a stick and plastic bag, and setting goals: The first half of each day was dedicated to screaming for help, the second half to keeping the sun at bay in the 100-degree-plus desert.

When Nelson ran through her water, she turned to her own urine, which tasted like "bad, flat beer," she tells the Post. She also made short videos on her phone, which she's not sure she can watch yet. On her fourth day out there she spotted a helicopter and heard a voice say on the PA system, "Claire, we're looking for you" (a friend had reported her missing). She was rescued late Friday afternoon and taken to a hospital, where she had reconstructive surgery on her pelvis. Though grateful to be alive, what's now throwing Nelson is the US health-care system and her mounting bills. "I'm being scanned for every pill I take, every injection I get," she tells the BBC. "I have a barcode and everything's going on a tab somewhere. It's disconcerting." A GoFundMe page aimed at helping her pay for everything has raised more than $19,000. More on Nelson's ordeal on what appears to be her Twitter feed. (More hikers stories.)

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