SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. — Her hike on Christmas Eve was supposed to be an opportunity to take advantage of a beautiful Southern California day. Instead, it ended with a fall that nearly claimed Ruth Mercy Woroniecki's life.
Woroniecki had summited Cucamonga Peak in San Bernardino County and was on her way back down when she lost her footing on an icy switchback and fell approximately 200 feet, the sheriff's office reported.
"My next memory is coming to to the sound of the helicopters flying over, the other hikers with me and a lot of blood," Woroniecki said.
Other hikers surrounded her and called for help.
The fall caused a cut in her scalp, tore ligaments in her leg and broke two vertebrae in her neck.
"It was definitely one of those moments that hits you hard, like I could be paralyzed," she said.
To reach rescuers who arrived via helicopter to evacuate her to a hospital, Woroniecki said she had to hike 200 feet further down the trail.
"The rescuer, who was equipped with crampons and an ice axe, hiked to her location and assessed her condition. He placed Woroniecki in a rescue harness and assisted her to an open area, away from trees," the sheriff's office said in a statement.
Woroniecki said she spent days in a hospital ICU and had surgery on the broken vertebrae. She will remain in a neck brace for five more weeks and will have to take it easier for some time after.
"But the joy and the gratitude of being alive and being able to walk and talk just far, far outweighs it," she said.
Woroniecki said she relied upon her faith in God in the aftermath of the fall -- and believes her prayers helped save her life.
In her recovery, Woroniecki said she plans to continue her previous work to spread her message of faith. She also plans to get back on hiking trails one day.
"[To] run and hike and walk and mountain bike and fish for trout in the Rockies, I can’t wait," she said.
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