Hurt Kiwi drinks urine to sur­vive

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

A Kiwi who drank her own urine to sur­vive three days stranded and in­jured in the desert, says it tastes like bad, flat beer.

Claire Nel­son, 36, was found with a shat­tered pelvis in Joshua Tree Na­tional Park, Cal­i­for­nia, by United States park rangers four days after she fell and broke her pelvis on Tues­day.

‘‘No­body could hear me scream. I would have died by the week­end. I can­not be­lieve I am alive,’’ Nel­son tweeted from hospi­tal after the or­deal.

Nel­son told Stuff she had been hik­ing in Joshua Tree Na­tional Park. She climbed over boul­ders to get to the track below when she slipped down a sheer 7-me­tre drop and landed on the ground below, shat­ter­ing her pelvis.

Un­able to move, it was four days be­fore she was found, fear­ful of rat­tle snakes and in agony.

But the worst part was the re­lent­less heat which got close to 40 de­grees Cel­sius and the only re­lief was hold­ing up her T-shirt to shield her face and head.

When wa­ter ran out she drank her own urine – a sur­vival tech­nique learned from movies.

‘‘It tasted like re­ally bad flat beer – it is not pleas­ant but it is not the worst thing.’’

The res­cue heli­copter would never have found her if she had not made a flag to wave them down, she said.

‘‘I thought no­body will find me at this point ... to hear the heli­copter and hear them call my name.

‘‘I thought: oh my God, I am ac­tu­ally go­ing to sur­vive.’’

In Otaki, ¯ north of Welling­ton, her mother Mag­gie Hick­ton said she started be­com­ing con­cerned when her daugh­ter’s In­sta­gram feed stopped get­ting up­dated.

‘‘By Thurs­day I was start­ing to think, how long do you wait?’’ she said.

Hor­ri­ble thoughts went through her head – had her daugh­ter been ab­ducted?

Had she been bit­ten by a rat­tle snake? Hick­ton planned to fly over to see her daugh­ter to­day.

The Joshua Tree trip was a diver­sion from a one-year tour Nel­son was tak­ing across Canada fol­low­ing 12 years liv­ing in Lon­don.

Be­fore that, Nel­son was based in Auck­land but spent many of her younger years in East­bourne, on the edge of Welling­ton Har­bour.

Otago Univer­sity re­nal spe­cial­ist An­drew Bahn said drink­ing urine – which was 98 per cent wa­ter – was a good idea if de­hy­dra­tion was the other op­tion. ‘‘I guess any­body would drink their own urine if you are in a sit­u­a­tion like this, to keep your­self hydrated,’’ he said.

‘‘There is sodium in our urine which would sup­port hy­dra­tion, as the main trans­port pro­tein in the in­tes­tine to sup­port hy­dra­tion is a sodium de­pen­dent sys­tem.

‘‘So, yes, to drink your own urine will re­hy­drate you.’’

There were some el­e­ments – such as cre­a­ti­nine or urea – in urine the body was get­ting rid of but that could be tol­er­ated for a few days if in­gested again, he said. ‘‘It might be dif­fer­ent if you take med­i­ca­tion that is mainly elim­i­nated by the kid­neys. This med­i­ca­tion would ac­cu­mu­late in the blood if you drink your own urine and may be­come toxic due to the con­cen­tra­tion in the blood.’’

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