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Survival Stories

June 20, 2017

Never underestimate the power of the human spirit. (This story is a sneak peek from our 30th annual edition, Uncle John’s Old Faithful Bathroom Reader, available November 2017.)

The Mad Adder

Teenage brothers Brock and Josh Leach (14 and 16, respectively) were exploring the top of a seaside cliff in Cornwall, England, in July 2015 when Brock slipped and fell 100 feet down. He hit several rocky outcroppings before landing hard on a ledge just above the churning sea. Hurt but alert, Brock knew he had to get to higher ground before the tide came in, but he’d fractured his pelvis and couldn’t walk. So he reached up and grabbed a rock, hoping to pull himself up…and suddenly felt a stabbing pain in his right hand. Then he saw it: an adder—the only venomous species of snake in the UK—slithering away from him. Brock’s hand started swelling to three times its normal size. A few minutes later, Josh arrived after scrambling down the cliff. He helped his brother get to a higher ledge, but Brock was in too much pain to move any farther. So Josh, who didn’t have a mobile phone, climbed all the way back up to the top and started yelling for someone to call 9-9-9 (Britain’s 9-1-1). It worked. Not long after, rescuers from the coast guard arrived and helicoptered Brock to the nearest hospital, where he was given antivenin. He made a full recovery.

Buried Alive

Around midday on April 25, 2015, Rishi Khanal was on the second floor of a seven-story hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal, when the building started shaking violently. The next thing the 27-year-old man knew, he was trapped in complete darkness beneath several tons of rubble. He tried moving, but something was crushing his leg. So he tried yelling, but no one could hear him. Minutes passed, then hours. Then days. He could smell dead people all around him. “I was certain I was going to die,” Khanal later told ABC News. But even so, he didn’t give up. He “fed” himself with the only sustenance he could get: his own urine. After 82 long hours, a French rescue team finally heard him banging on rocks and started digging as fast as they could. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed more than 8,000 people, but Khanal beat the odds and made it out alive.

Down in the Dumps

Yang Hsieh, a 28-year-old construction worker in China’s Hunan province, was the last one at the job site when he accidentally took a step in the wrong direction and fell over a ledge. When he came to an abrupt stop 65 feet below, both of his arms and legs were broken, as was his phone. He’d landed in a dark pit deep in the bowels of the building project, so no one could see him or hear his cries for help. When Yang didn’t show up for work the next day, his fellow workers assumed he’d found a new job and changed his phone number. But Yang was right underneath them the whole time…for six days. On the seventh day, a woman walking her dog heard his faint cries and discovered Yang barely clinging to life. He was taken to a hospital, where he was expected to make a full recovery. When asked how he managed to not die of thirst, Yang confessed, “I had to drink my own urine for six days to stop myself dehydrating.”

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Uncle John's Old Faithful Bathroom Reader

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