Doctors are astonished at how well Amanda Eller is doing after surviving more than two weeks in a Maui forest. However, she has fractured her leg and suffered a severe sunburn and infection. We spoke to an expert about what happens to the human body when exposed to extreme elements.
Experts say a person could last about 3 weeks without food, but water is another story. We learned that Eller drank from the river and ate fruits, so she was not severely dehydrated. That played a huge part in her survival. However, there are other issues a person in that extreme circumstance could face.
Here in Hawaii…we’re told one of the biggest concerns is sun exposure.
“We are much more prone to developing these sunburns, in addition to that though, we can easily develop heat exhaustion, heat stroke, seizures, coma, even death just form exposure to the sun,” said internist Dr. Rupie. “Trying to stay out of the sun as much as possible between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is ideal because that’s when the heat and sun are at its worse.”
Dr. Rupie tells us the sunburn damage and blistering can break the skin which puts a person at risk for bacteria and cause infection.
“One of the most common infections that we tend to get in our skin and soft tissue is staphylococcus also known as staph,” she said.
Eller did not suffer from severe dehydration because she was drinking river water, but unpurified water is another avenue for bacteria to enter your body.
“The bacteria that we have in the streams here, in particular, we have Leptospirosis, which is something to be concerned about,” said Dr. Rupie.
Eller was able to find fruits to eat like strawberry guava, but that only went so far. We’re told Eller lost about 15 to 20 pounds. Dr. Rupie says when the body goes into starvation mode, it will shift focus to the important organs.
“There’s an electrolyte and fluid shift that can occur, that whatever she was taking in her body was really trying to utilize to the best maximum potential,” said Dr. Rupie. “As these electrolyte and body fluids shift, there can be other damages that can occur such as swelling in the legs break down in skin tissue.”
Dr. Rupie tells us people need to be careful when recovering from starvation mode. What and how to eat is important when reintroducing food again and monitoring this adjustment could take a couple of weeks.