A year ago, on her 37th birthday, Kristen Yaldor suffered a truly horrific experience.
During a canoeing trip in Zimbabwe with her husband Ryan and local tour guides, Kristen Yaldor was attacked by a hippopotamus, resulting in severe damage to her leg.
According to Yaldor, in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, the hippo attacked the canoe just minutes into the tour, throwing everyone into the water and then attacking her with its powerful bite.
“She popped to the surface and saw Ryan swimming to shore. She was maybe five strokes away from land. But something clamped down on her right leg, yanked her underwater and tossed her side to side like a dog with a chew toy.”
Yaldor remained calm, holding her breath and grasping at the animal’s face until it released her and she was able to swim to shore, where a tour guide applied a tourniquet to her gashed and broken leg while her husband called for help.
While most people think of crocodiles and alligators as the main danger on freshwater, with their enormous size and territorial nature hippos are extremely dangerous and are responsible for 500 deaths a year in Africa, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The attack broke Yaldor’s femur and sent her to the hospital where she then endured bacterial infections from the river water that had entered the wound. She was eventually transported to Florida for further treatment.
After 14 surgeries and extensive rehabilitation Yaldor is now walking again and, while she can’t run yet, plans to complete a charity 5k in January at “a brisk walk.”
What’s most inspiring in this story is that the very active Yaldor—a longtime runner and skydiver—never seems to have let the harrowing encounter dent her sense of optimism, telling the Tampa Bay Times she got through it all with the support of her family and saying:
“I’m here. I have a leg. It may not look the same, but it’s here.”