Extraordinary People

Woman drinks own pee to survive after pelvis breaks while stranded in desert for 4 days

Claire Nelson fell 25ft and had no option but to resort to drastic measures alone in the desert for four days.

A woman who embarked on a solo hike in California was forced to drink her own urine after an accident left her for dead.

Claire Nelson, 37, broke her pelvis after falling 25ft and had no option but to resort to drastic measures alone in the desert.

Writing for The Sun about her ordeal, magazine journalist Claire said she was lying injured for three days when she finally accepted that she might die.

Claire explained: “As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I imagined my shattered bones decaying in the dusty valley. I desperately wanted to live, but I was losing strength.

“I had to drink my urine, collecting it in a paracetamol jar and saving it up in my empty bottle to drink. It made me gag, but at least it offered a little hydration.”

New Zealander Claire had seized the moment to travel solo after a move to London in 2005 left her struggling with depression.

Claire knew that something had to shift, and fast-forward to 2017, it was when she was made redundant that she was driven to spark a change.

The following year, she began travelling around Canada, on a mission to find herself while exploring the beautiful nature.

It was from here that she country-hopped over to America, after some friends invited her to house-sit for them.

Against the sunny 40°C backdrop, close to the city of San Bernardino, Claire set off on a seven-mile hike into Joshua Tree, thinking she would be back in four hours.

She explained: “It was an idyllic walk past cacti and juniper, with panoramic views of the desert. But halfway to the oasis, while climbing over a pile of boulders, I slipped and fell 25ft.

“My pelvis shattered on impact, causing indescribable pain. I realised I couldn’t move from the waist down and was unable to sit or stand.

“Panicking, it hit me that I was too remote to have any phone signal, so I couldn’t call for help, and I hadn’t told anyone where I was going. When I checked my location on my offline Google Maps, I discovered I’d somehow gone a mile off the trail.

“I began to realise that my chances of dying were high, but as I pictured my family and friends, I knew I had to stay calm to make rational decisions.”

After 24 hours of being stranded, and with water running out, Claire had little choice but to drink her own urine or face death.

It was her smart decision that kept her safe until the sight of a rescue helicopter – contacted by the friends she was house-sitting for – appeared into view.

Claire was airlifted to hospital in Palm Springs, where she stayed for 18 days and had an operation to insert pins into her pelvis.

Leaving in a wheelchair, Claire initially returned to Toronto, before heading back to her native New Zealand where she spent six months learning to walk again.

Claire concluded: “After the accident, I got a renewed perspective on life… I realised I’d been putting up walls as a way of protecting myself from getting hurt, which had left me feeling lonely. I knew it was time to open up and let people in.”

The globetrotter – who ended up moving back to London – put pen to paper about her experience, releasing her book Things I Learned From Falling.

Claire’s cherry on the cake is that she returned to the same trail where she fell in Joshua Tree National Park, this time with friends, and completed it with them in 2019.

To grab a copy of Claire’s book, click here: Things I Learned From Falling.


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