MAUI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - From a Maui hospital bed, Amanda Eller took to the internet to thank those who searched tirelessly for her over the last two weeks.
“The last 17 days of my life have been the toughest days of my life," Eller said.
She sat alongside her boyfriend Ben Konkol with other family members also by her side
"It’s been a really significant spiritual journey that I was guided on, and 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. I wasn’t going to take the easy way out,” Eller said.
Tears welled in Eller’s eyes as she spoke about the bond of the Maui community and those who came together to help search for her, whether they knew her or not.
“I have the most gratitude and respect and appreciation — I can’t even put it into words — for the people that have helped me, for the people that have prayed for me, for the people that were at base camp, for the people all over the world that somehow just wanted to be a part of this for the greater good,” she said.
She was reported missing on May 9 after going hiking at the Kahakapao Loop Trail in Makawao on Maui a day earlier. After she failed to return, her loved ones grew anxious.
A massive search ensued with volunteers and rescuers spending countless hours looking for any sign of Eller.
17 days passed before a contracted helicopter pilot spotted her in an area known as the Bamboo Forrest — roughly four miles from the parking lot where her vehicle and items were found.
“She sat down and rested on a fallen log, just kinda meditated and took a little nap. When she got up she was disoriented about where she was and just followed her instincts trying to get back to her car,” Eller’s mother, Julia Eller said.
Mrs. Eller told reporters that she continued to walk. She took off her shoes to dry them off, then lost them when the area flooded. Then, after more than 2 weeks on her own...she couldn’t go any further.
“Honestly she had gotten to a point where there was no road left for her to go. And the only way was down a 20-foot waterfall," said Mrs. Eller. "And that would’ve been the undoing. She was at a crossroads juncture and she felt compelled to stay right there.”
Saturday afternoon, Eller’s friends and family held a press conference to discuss the latest on Eller’s condition and to thank the Maui community.
“This morning I went in to see her. She looks amazing. Boy, I tell you, what she’s been through you would never be able to tell. She looks beautiful, amazing, and she’s doing very well. I think she’s going to have a great recovery. I’m hoping we can get her home soon,” Dr. Zora Bulatovic said.
“It’s just a miracle. Our daughter has come to us and in wonderful condition,” Julia, said.
As for how Eller managed to stay alive for the last 17 days, Dr. Bulatovic said, “She was able to stay hydrated with river water ... eating fresh fruits from the trees, trying to keep her nutrition up. She was well-educated in that. She knew exactly what to take and managed to stay hydrated.”
Eller however does have other injuries, which included severe burns in her lower extremities, a fractured tibia, and a skin infection, doctors said.
As for Eller’s future hiking plans, her mom says she doesn’t plan on heading out any time soon.
“Ha ha ha! ...I think she’s had enough of Makawao Forest for just a little bit,” Mrs. Eller explained.
Watch the press conference in full below:
This story will be updated.