Amanda Eller was thrown into survival mode when she got lost in the Hawaiian wilderness while hiking, surviving on berries and guavas for two harrowing weeks.
The 35-year-old yoga teacher went out for a hike in Makawao Forest Reserve in Maui on May 8. She is an avid outdoors person who likes to unplug, so family and friends didn't think twice about her excursion. But when she didn't return home later that day, they knew something went horribly wrong.
Eller had gotten lost along her way. For 16 days, what she described as the "toughest days" of her life, she embarked on a "really significant journey."
"There were times of total fear and loss and wanting to give up, and it did come down to life and death. And I had to choose. And I chose life. ... Even though that meant more suffering and pain for myself," Eller said in a video posted to Facebook.
Choosing life meant Eller had to keep herself alive by any means possible.
She sustained herself with berries and guavas, said Sarah Haynes, who organized the search for Eller and ran the Find Amanda Facebook page. Haynes told People that Eller first got her drinking water from a nearby waterfall. But she stopped drinking from the fall after it rained because she didn't want to get sick from run-off.
Eller was eventually found on May 24 in a deep ravine, injured and dehydrated. Photos taken at the time of her rescue showed her looking extremely thin with swollen and bruised ankles and feet. But she was smiling, clearly happy to have gotten a second lease on life.
Searcher Chris Berquist said Eller was "very alert" when he found her and she "knew exactly how long she had been out there." He described the incredible rescue as "overpowering."
Eller echoed that sentiment.
"Just the idea of helping one person make it out of the woods alive, it just warms my heart," Eller said of all those who never stopped looking for her.
In an emotional press conference after her discovery, Eller's father credited his daughter for keeping her head above the water.
"It was a rough journey. It was her mental strength and fortitude, her belief in herself that kept her at it," John Eller said.