A medical practitioner from northern Maine who broke her leg while hiking in a remote section of the Utah high desert country survived her four-day ordeal — a feat that rescuers from that state are calling “miraculous.”

On Saturday morning, searchers in a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter found 59-year-old Victoria Grover of Wade, Maine, lying in sand near Sand Creek, which flows through the Box Death Hollow Wilderness Area in southern Utah.

In addition to her broken leg, Grover suffers from Type 2 diabetes. Grover, who is a physician’s assistant, owns and operates Full Circle Health Care in Presque Isle.

“It’s truly a miraculous survival. If we hadn’t been able to find her car rental agreement to locate her car, we’d still be looking for her, and I feel certain she would not have survived much longer,” Garfield County Sheriff Deputy Ray Gardner said in a prepared statement.

Grover was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Cedar City, Utah, where she was recovering Sunday night.

Scott Monroe, spokesman for the Valley View Medical Center, said Grover was in good condition.


She underwent surgery on her leg and is expected to make a full recovery. She is scheduled to be released from the hospital Tuesday.

“I prayed a lot and derived comfort from it,” Grover, who is a member of the Mormon church, told The Associated Press on Sunday via a teleconference call. “I thought God would do everything possible to help me overcome my stupidity. I learned from my mother that things can always be worse.”

Grover told The Associated Press that she set out Tuesday for a short day hike from Hell’s Backbone Road to Sand Creek.

She broke her leg on the return hike while jumping off a 4-foot ledge about two miles from the trailhead. Grover had no food and only light clothing with her at the start of her hike.

Grover said she survived by sleeping in shade during the day and staying awake while sitting curled up in a rain poncho at night. The poncho saved her life by trapping her body’s heat and serving as a windbreaker, she said.

Grover said she was able to start fires the first couple of nights with matches, but was unable to do so afterward because of the intense pain she suffered while sliding on her backside for firewood.


“The hunger is something that comes in waves. You get hungry and want to eat everything and then it goes away,” The Associated Press quoted her as saying. “The worst thing is the cold. It never warmed up except for a few hours in the afternoon.”

She was able to “scoot” on her backside to Sand Creek, which provided her with drinking water.

The crew of a search-and-rescue helicopter located her Saturday morning after authorities found her car parked at Hell’s Backbone Road. They had found a receipt in her room at a local bed and breakfast that identified her rental car, then searched for the car at nearby trailheads.

Authorities said Grover did not tell anyone where she was going — the hard lesson that the recent Hollywood movie “127 Hours” was based on. In that movie starring James Franco, an experienced mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering in Moab, Utah. The only way he can escape is by cutting his arm off.

The movie is based on the experience of a climber named Aron Ralston, who did not let anyone know where he was going.

Terry Mercer, the helicopter pilot who rescued Grover, is the same pilot who flew Ralston to safety, according to Mike Ahlstrom, the search-and-rescue commander for Bryce Valley Area.


Ahlstrom said Grover took a survival training course in 1972 through Brigham Young University that involved hiking in the same area where she fell and broke her leg.

Ahlstrom was on board the helicopter that was used to transport Grover to safety from Sand Creek Canyon.

“Terry was able to fit that chopper down in a very tight spot,” Ahlstrom said. “Most pilots, I’d venture to say, would not have landed there.”

Ahlstrom said Grover was wearing two long-sleeved shirts, a light pair of hiking pants and a wide-brimmed hat.

Nighttime temperatures during the time she was there ranged from 28 to 36 degrees, he said.

“The terrain is extremely rough, and these trails are not well maintained or marked,” Ahlstrom said Sunday night. “These are old cattle trails that people love to hike because the views are unlike any others in the world.


“She did a couple of things that were really smart,” Ahlstrom added. “She slept during the day when the sun was out and she stayed awake at night when it was cold.”

Grover also tied a scarf to her walking stick in an attempt to make a splint to brace her leg.

Ahlstrom said he is not sure how she survived.

“With these cold temperatures, she should have died,” he said.

About three years ago, Ahlstrom said, a male hiker broke his leg and became hypothermic. He crawled into a stream — hypothermia can make a person feel as though he is burning up — and froze to death.

“The most experienced adventurers come to this area as a personal challenge because it is a difficult, unforgiving terrain,” said Becki Bronson, spokeswoman for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. “For her to have survived this can be attributed to two things: her medical training and her survival training.”


Lawrence Crystal, a friend and professional acquaintance of Grover, learned about her ordeal Sunday night. Crystal is a podiatrist in Presque Isle.

“Nothing about what happened to Victoria surprises me. She is an amazing person,” Crystal said.

Jim Harnar is the executive director of the Daniel Hanley Center for Health Leadership in Portland. He is acquainted with Grover because she graduated in 2010 from the center’s eight-month health care leadership program, which involves three days of outdoor survival training at Outward Bound in Newry.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Harnar said, after being told of what happened in Utah. “Victoria is tough and she is gutsy. And she has spent a lot of time in the outdoors. She is a great example of the high caliber of health care professionals we have working in rural Maine.”

Mildred Bennett is a friend and neighbor of Grover.

“She has done the Allagash (canoe) trip several times,” Bennett said.

Bennett said she believes that Grover traveled to Utah to attend her son’s wedding.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: dhoey@pressherald.com

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