Heroic mom got lost during marathon and went to extreme measure to survive

May 11, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. ET

When a new mom took a wrong turn during a half marathon, instincts kicked in, as she dug herself a hole, covered herself with dirt and drank her own breast milk to survive a long, cold night out in the woods.

A couple of days ago, Susan O'Brien set out to run a half marathon in the XTERRA Wellington Trail Running Series at the Rimutaka Forest Park in New Zealand at around 9 in the morning, but when she failed to cross the finish line a few hours later, her family became concerned.

An aggressive search effort was soon underway, but she wasn't located until the following morning, about a mile and a half off the running trail. She was rescued after she was spotted by searchers in a helicopter that had heat detection equipment on board.

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Once she was reunited with her husband, kids and parents, she was able to share the tale of how she survived. She related that she thought her life was in danger after taking a wrong turn, and by instinct she burrowed into the forest floor and covered herself with dirt. And fortunately she had some fluids right there with her, in the form of breast milk.

She didn't disclose exactly how she was able to drink her own milk, but I would imagine that she expressed by hand into her cupped palm. While drinking out of a dirty paw isn't ideal, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman drinking her own milk. Since it was just for 24 hours, it likely kept her from becoming severely dehydrated, even though she was drinking milk she made herself (which also draws on the body's fluid reserves). Drinking your own milk probably wouldn't work for an extended amount of time, but as breast milk is completely safe for an infant, it's certainly safe for an adult.

It's a huge relief that she wasn't injured or lost for a longer period of time and that she was in good shape when she was found, and I'm sure her family is thrilled she is back with them after what had to have been a harrowing 24 hours.

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