'Help' sign saves UT grad student's life

'Help' sign saves UT grad's student's life

Rachel Lloyd, like many graduate students, is busy with classes and adjusting to a new city. But that grind pales in comparison to the life-or-death situation she experienced earlier this year while studying abroad in New Zealand.

Rachel's mom came to visit her in New Zealand and the pair decided to go on a hike.

"My mom loves to hike, we're both very active, and we decided to go hiking," Rachel explained. The trip was supposed to only last six hours. 

After hiking for two and a half hours, they ate lunch and started making their way back.

"I guess the point where we really knew we were in trouble was that first night after we couldn't get back up, we stayed in a tree," Rachel said. 

Dealing with rough terrain, Rachel and her mother woke up the second day determined to find a path out. But as they navigated their way along a river they encountered more problems than solutions.

"We would have to go in water every time which made it difficult, too, because it's so cold. It's the middle of winter there." 

After being fully submerged in water, Rachel began to develop hypothermia. By the fourth day, with batteries dying and supplies running low, Rachel and her mother dealt with a difficult topic: death.

"I had actually accepted it," Rachel said. "And I think it's because the number one thing is my faith. I'm a very strong person of faith and I just believed it was God's purpose for me."

Rachel's family in the U.S. was finally able to alert New Zealand authorities, sparking off a massive search that began on Night Four. 

Struggling to move forward, Rachel's mother created a 'help' sign out of fern branches to try and signal authorities in the only area unobstructed by trees.

On Day Five, their prayers were answered.

"The helicopter came, but it was almost like a dream. It came and passed over us and it left," Rachel said. "And it was the scariest seven seconds of my life."

But the helicopter quickly looped back, landing to save them. 

"I just saw a man running at me," Rachel remembers. "And he just came in and scooped me up and held me close to him. I felt it was almost God."

Even months later, the story is just as shocking.

"Sometimes I'm like 'am I lying about this? Am I exaggerating?' No, if anything I'm doing the opposite. It's so remarkable, the experience that I had and that I'm alive right now," Rachel said.

Rachel credits her faith for helping her persevere through the ordeal.

After being found, Rachel spent more than a week in the hospital. She spoke with local media in New Zealand to help spread hiking safety awareness.

 

(© 2016 KVUE)


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