Rescued camper: 'That drive to live was so strong for me' - KPTV - FOX 12

Rescued camper: 'That drive to live was so strong for me'

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A Portland woman who spent four days lost in the Mount Hood wilderness with a broken leg says she surprised herself with her drive to survive.

Pamela Salant, 28, spoke to reporters today at Legacy Emanuel Hospital for the first time since her rescue.

"I never wanted to give up, but I was just uncertain my body could handle it with my broken," she says.

On July 30, Salant and her boyfriend dropped off their gear at a campsite at Bear Lake in the Mount Hood National Forest, and then split up to seek out a better spot.

But Salant never returned and authorities started a large-scale search.

Today, the injured hiker said she had fallen off a cliff and landed near a river while trying to get back to the campsite.

"The fall happened so quickly," she said.  "I didn't even feel myself landing.  I just remember waking up and thinking, 'whoa, what just happened?'"

But Salant felt safe because she was near water, and the area was less densely forested and she could be seen from the sky.

"I knew where I was laying, I was safe," she said.

However, the pain from a broken left tibia, back injuries and severe abrasions soon set in. Salant said she kept hobbling along, despite her injuries.

"That drive to live was so strong for me. I really felt I wasn't done yet. I kept pushing and pushing through all the pain. I wasn't going to just lay there. I wanted to keep going," she says.

She spent four days and three nights alone, eating berries and bugs and covering herself in moss to stay warm.  Salant says she meditated to stay calm.

"I had a lot of people's faces in my head that I loved," said Salant.  "My life was on rewind, all these experiences that have happened and songs that have come into my head and acted as inspiration."

Meanwhile, an intense search and rescue operation was well underway, and last Tuesday a helicopter crew spotted Salant about 2 miles from the Bear Lake campsite.

"It was split second," said Major Neil Maunu, the helicopter pilot from the Oregon Army National Guard.  "What caught my eye was her waving her arms as best she could, and I think waving her arms like that is probably what caught my attention and pulled my eyes to where she was and probably saved her."

During the news conference, Salant thanked her rescuers and told them how much she appreciated their efforts.

"I'm really grateful for everyone's prayers and thoughts and just really happy to be here," said Salant.

She's now said to be in good condition but undergoing physical therapy for her leg.  She hopes to leave the hospital sometime this week and head home with a new appreciation for life and for her survival skills.

"I didn't realize I had that in me. I definitely surprised myself," she says.

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