Strength, hope and old-fashioned chutzpah helped her survive the challenge of a lifetime

A hike in California’s Sequoia National Park turned deadly when Shannon Parker split from her group to grab her sunglasses from the car. Before she could get them, she found herself face-to-face with the lion and came to a daunting realization.

“I knew exactly what it was when I made eye contact with it,” she said in an ABC interview. “It was either the mountain lion or me. One of us was going to die.”

The cat attacked, catching Parker’s head in its jaws. Parker fought the cat for six minutes before she was able to free her face and scream to alert her friends. They chased it off with rocks and a pocketknife, but not before Parker sustained a severe injury to her right eye, along with deep gouges in her thigh.

After a surgery failed to repair her eye, doctors fitted her with a
prosthetic. While Parker suffered no life-threatening injuries, the trauma to her face was devastating; Parker said the most challenging aspect of the attack was dealing with the disfiguring injuries she suffered.

Her plastic surgeon played a huge role in helping her recover when he told her that he’d be able to repair the damage to her face.
“And that right there, I mean, it just changed my attitude; it changed the hope that I had. It changed everything,” she told CNN. “And then, I knew not only was I alive, but I was going to progress.”

Progress meant not only recovering from her injuries but recovering from her emotional trauma. Part of Parker’s solution has been to seek meaning in her experiences. Less than a year after the attack, she went back to Sequoia National Park to revisit the spot where she struggled for her life. Now she’s working to educate the public about what to do if a mountain lion attacks and, because she says that she would have stayed with her group had she seen warning signs posted, she’s working to place them where mountain lions might be a danger to hikers.

According to Parker, her recovery, though difficult, gets better as each day passes. “I believe that my strength and hope has got me to where I am today.”

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