A 17-year-old girl who survived eight days after her car crashed and tumbled 200 feet down a ravine may have been saved by her own dehydration, which prevented the expansion of a blood clot in her brain.
Laura Hatch’s family had almost given her up for dead, and sheriff’s deputies in Washington state had all but written her off as a runaway.
Then she was found, badly hurt and severely dehydrated, but alive and conscious, in the back seat of her crumpled Toyota Camry.
A volunteer searcher, who said she had several vivid dreams of a wooded area, found the wrecked car in the trees .
“It’s an extraordinary tale of survival,” said King County sheriff’s Sergeant John Urquhart.
Dr Richard Ellenbogen, chief neurosurgeon at Harborview Medical Centre in Seattle, said a blood clot toward the right rear side of Laura’s brain from the crash could have proved fatal had it grown. It probably remained small because of her dehydration, he said.
“It doesn’t always work out like that,” Dr Ellenbogen said. “This is a good story. We’re hoping it has a really happy ending.”
Laura remained in serious condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit, a day after she was found in Redmond, a Seattle suburb
Dr Ellenbogen said Hatch was disoriented, thinking only a day had passed and unable to remember the crash or what she did in the days before she was rescued, but managed to joke with him.
He described her as articulate and clever, adding, “she’s in amazing shape for someone lost for eight days”.
Doctors were rehydrating Laura while carefully monitoring her condition, and the blood clot could dissolve on its own, he said. Broken bones around her left eye could require surgery.
Hatch was last seen at a party and when she did not show up by the next day, her family filed a missing person’s report.
Sgt Urquhart said Hatch apparently was driving along a steep, winding two-lane road and “managed to find an open space between two guardrails”.
Laura’s parents organised a volunteer search and that night Sha Nohr, the mother of Hatch’s friend, said she had dreams of a wooded area and heard the message: “Keep going, keep going.”
On Sunday morning, Nohr and her daughter drove to the area where the crash occurred, praying along the way. “I just thought, ‘Let her speak out to us,’" Nohr said.
Nohr said something drew her to stop and clamber over a concrete barrier and more than 100 feet down a steep, densely vegetated embankment where she barely managed to discern the wrecked car in some trees.