How did Mischelle Hileman survive a weeklong ordeal in the Oregon wilderness, stranded in subzero temperatures without a winter coat or matches to start a fire?
She says two angels stayed with her each night, emanating warmth and light.
Hileman, 40, found herself in the canyon near Wallowa, Ore., following an elk-hunting accident a year ago. She recently revisited the area, now on artificial legs. Her frostbitten legs were amputated below the knees.
“I think we witnessed a true miracle,” Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen told the Oregonian.
Nighttime temperatures dropped to at least 4 below zero in Alder Creek Canyon where Hileman lay injured for more than a week.
Hileman agrees her survival was miraculous. The former home health worker says that during her struggle to survive, two angels appeared and remained with her, radiating warmth and keeping her from dying of hypothermia.
“The best way to describe it was two golden bright lights, just in the shape of two people,” she told the Oregonian. They appeared on the second night after she began to pray for help, they never spoke and disappeared at daylight, but they were with her every night until she was rescued, she said.
Hileman’s ordeal began on a sunny 55-degree Sunday morning on Oct. 27, 2002, when her father, Benny Hileman, 62, pulled his pickup off a logging road 12 miles northeast of Wallowa to let her out. It was elk season, and Mischelle planned to hunt on foot for 45 minutes, then rendezvous with her father.
But, instead, Mischelle followed three elk into Alder Creek Canyon, where she fell. Suffering from a deep puncture wound to her left leg, she was unable to make it out of the canyon.
Within hours, a winter storm moved in.
More than 100 volunteers, friends and family members turned out to search for her. Most quickly became convinced that Hileman, who suffers from diabetes and asthma, had little chance of survival. The search was scaled back Oct. 31, but many refused to quit, and 27 people turned out the next day, spreading across the forest on horses and ATVs. She was finally found Nov. 3.