Woman who spent days in forest alone at the age of six without food, water and shelter shares how she survived
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A woman has revealed how she survived two days alone in a forest at the age of six.
Prepare to gawp in awe:
On 29 April, 2001, six-year-old Haley Zega went on a hiking trip with her grandparents in the Ozark National Forest, Arkansas, US.
She ended up becoming separated from them when she grew 'tired and grumpy' after being told she couldn't go to see a waterfall and so took a different path to them.
Zega ended up missing for a total of two days but managed to keep herself alive without any food or water. Now 27 years old, she's opened up about how she survived.
Zega reflects how she's 'never really been a panicker' and has always managed to remain 'calm' in 'extreme life or death situations,' even aged six, going into 'problem solving mode'.
She recalled: "From the minute I was lost I had this imaginary friend, Alicia, who kept me calm and on task and was nothing but a positive presence for me whilst I was missing.
"There were times I didn't want to be out there and the nights were pretty difficult being alone in the dark, with nothing.
"I was not having a good time, but it never occurred to me that I wouldn't be okay."
However, the 27-year-old admits if she'd 'been any younger' she would have likely 'sat down and cried' rather than trekking through the forest for help.
"And had I been older I would have known how serious the situation was and not to move," she adds.
Finding herself missing in 'probably the most rural area between The Appalachian Mountains and Rocky Mountains' Zega travelled along the Buffalo River 'thinking it would eventually lead to a gas station' and she could 'call [her] parents'.
Alas, she remained lost, and 'never ate or drank anything' as 'didn't know if [she] could drink' the water supply from the river.
Zega managed to find a cave to sleep in on her second night missing.
"I was hallucinating family members in the trees and a valley of flamingos - which I think is an interesting peak into my psyche," she explained.
Thankfully, the six-year-old was eventually found by two men named William Jeff Villines and Lytle James who strayed from the main 1,000-person strong search party - helicopters having been circling overhead looking out for the small girl in 'a grey shirt' and 'black shorts'.
Zega says she was given a Diet Coke and chocolate pudding by her two rescuers who 'knew the forest really well' and had been 'essentially laughed off' when they told officials they 'might be looking in the wrong place'.
"They put me on the back of the mules and I remember I only wanted to ride on the back of the smaller one," she remembered.
Despite what must have been a frightening ordeal for a six-year-old to go through, Zega remains an optimist, still believing 'things will work out in the end'.
The 27-year-old resolved: "I genuinely believe people are willing to help and it's helped me keep a positive attitude when things haven't gone well in the past.
"I'm very adventurous - it's not stopped me from taking risks and I've had massive adventures. I don't let fear rule, and it's caused me to treat people with kindness.
"Whilst I would never would want to go through it again and wouldn't wish it upon anyone, I would say it's had a positive impact on my life overall.
"I try to show, yes, I was a missing child, but that's not all I am, I'm not defined by it."
Featured Image Credit: SWNS
Topics: Food And Drink, US News