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Drama in Real Life: A Collection of Reader’s Digest’s Most Gripping Survival Stories

Reader's Digest Canada logo Reader's Digest Canada 2021-01-13 Compiled the Editors of Reader’s Digest Canada
map: On a steamy morning in July, Clay and Acaimie (pronounced “Ah-CAY-mee”) Chastain arrived at the base of Mount Liamuiga on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, ready for their first climb as husband and wife. They had married just five days earlier back home in Crawfordsville, Indiana, the culmination of a story­book romance. Clay, age 23, and Acaimie, age 25, had met at Purdue University, at a square dance held for Clay’s Christian fraternity and Acaimie’s Christian sorority. Clay—a handsome farmer’s son with a charming, puppy-dog energy—was immediately smitten by Acaimie’s beguiling smile. They’d lasted through college and the tough years after, when Acaimie moved to Illinois for work as a store manager and Clay finished his master’s degree in swine nutrition back at Purdue. They took turns enduring the weekly five-hour drives to see each other, but they were devoted and slightly old-fashioned—they refused to live together in the house they’d bought together in Indianapolis until after their wedding. Like any good couple, they had their complementary differences. Acaimie had always been the worrier. “A realist,” she says. “A pessimist,” Clay replies. She liked order and structure. She wasn’t just fastidious about washing her sheets once a week; she did it at the same time every Saturday. Clay, on the other hand, was a perpetual optimist—maddeningly carefree and easygoing, always certain that things would turn out just fine. So it was Clay who wanted to take a day of their Caribbean honeymoon and spend it scaling Mount Lia­muiga. The highest point on St. Kitts, ­Liamuiga is also a dormant volcano that starts in the clouds and plunges down to meet the sea. Called Mount Misery by the British who colonized the island, it is a popular day hike for vacationers looking for adventure. © Illustration: Ryan Garcia

On a steamy morning in July, Clay and Acaimie (pronounced “Ah-CAY-mee”) Chastain arrived at the base of Mount Liamuiga on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, ready for their first climb as husband and wife. They had married just five days earlier back home in Crawfordsville, Indiana, the culmination of a story­book romance. Clay, age 23, and Acaimie, age 25, had met at Purdue University, at a square dance held for Clay’s Christian fraternity and Acaimie’s Christian sorority.

Clay—a handsome farmer’s son with a charming, puppy-dog energy—was immediately smitten by Acaimie’s beguiling smile. They’d lasted through college and the tough years after, when Acaimie moved to Illinois for work as a store manager and Clay finished his master’s degree in swine nutrition back at Purdue. They took turns enduring the weekly five-hour drives to see each other, but they were devoted and slightly old-fashioned—they refused to live together in the house they’d bought together in Indianapolis until after their wedding.

Like any good couple, they had their complementary differences. Acaimie had always been the worrier. “A realist,” she says. “A pessimist,” Clay replies. She liked order and structure. She wasn’t just fastidious about washing her sheets once a week; she did it at the same time every Saturday. Clay, on the other hand, was a perpetual optimist—maddeningly carefree and easygoing, always certain that things would turn out just fine.

So it was Clay who wanted to take a day of their Caribbean honeymoon and spend it scaling Mount Lia­muiga. The highest point on St. Kitts, ­Liamuiga is also a dormant volcano that starts in the clouds and plunges down to meet the sea. Called Mount Misery by the British who colonized the island, it is a popular day hike for vacationers looking for adventure.

After Her Husband Fell Into a Dormant Volcano on Their Honeymoon, This Woman Had to Carry Him to Safety Alone

A dream honeymoon hike to the rim of a jungle crater ends with a terrible fall. Now a young bride must get her severely injured husband medical care—by herself.

a close up of a snow covered slope © Illustration: Steven P. Hughes

How a Group of Tourists Survived a Devastating Avalanche in the Italian Alps

Forty people gathered at a hotel high in the Italian Alps. Then came the earthquake, the devastating avalanche—and the race to find survivors.

© Illustration: Ryan Garcia

How a Pocket Knife Saved This Man During a Grizzly Bear Attack

Alone on a mountain and pinned under a grizzly, Colin Dowler reached for a pocket knife and struggled for his life.

a group of people standing around a plane: Lt. Col. John J. Capolino, a Philadelphia artist, painted this scene of Osipoff’s rescue in the 1940s. It belongs to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. © Courtesy of U.S. National Archives (photo no. 127-N-522950) Lt. Col. John J. Capolino, a Philadelphia artist, painted this scene of Osipoff’s rescue in the 1940s. It belongs to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia.

He Was Dangling Upside Down From An Airplane When Two Pilots Came To His Rescue

When Walter Osipoff’s parachute caught on his plane’s tail, leaving him dangling high above San Diego, his only hope was a daring mid-air rescue.

a close up of a cat looking at the camera © Photo: Shutterstock

The Woman Who Wrestled a Cougar

With no one to call for help, Larrane Leech put herself face-to-face with a young cougar to protect the children in her daycare. A Reader's Digest Canada classic, originally published in 1993.

a tree with a mountain in the background © Photo: Steve Chapman

To Get Help, This Man Had To Leave His Kids on a Cliff. He Prayed They Would Survive

God asks us to forgive others, but if you’re responsible for your children’s demise, how do you ever forgive yourself?

© Illustration: Mark Smith

How A Facebook Thread Saved Two Friends Who Were Gravely Injured in the Bali Jungle

Michael Lythcott and Stacey Eno’s scooter ran off the road, leaving them broken, bleeding and trapped in a Balinese jungle. Worse: no one knew. Then Michael, hours from death, got a signal on his phone.

© Photo by Steve Puppe

This 10-Year-Old Got Impaled By A Skewer. Could Doctors Remove It In Time?

Xavier Cunningham fell onto a rotisserie skewer and impaled his face. Doctors couldn’t believe he was still alive.

© Illustration: Mathias Ball

A Snakebite Turned This Woman’s Thailand Vacation Into a Fight for Her Life

Doctors raced to find an antidote as the snake’s venom spread through Shalabha Kalliath’s body, attacking her organs and inching her closer to death.

a man with long hair and a sunset in the background: The engulfing flames burned as hot as 1,500 degrees Celsius. © PHOTO: NOAH BERGER/AP/SHUTTERSTOCK The engulfing flames burned as hot as 1,500 degrees Celsius.

Fire Tornado!

Unstoppable wildfires are becoming the new normal. In 2018, an inferno that reached 1,500 degrees Celsius left a trail of destruction and death in Northern California. Here’s the truly terrifying story of the people trapped in the flames.

40 Hours Lost at Sea

Ordered to abandon ship in heavy weather, a badly injured second officer survives for nearly 40 hours in churning seas off Thailand.

a man standing next to a tree

Free Fall at Death Canyon

Her climbing rope had malfunctioned. Now, 275 metres above the floor of Wyoming’s Death Canyon, Lauren McLean clung to a ledge barely wide enough to support her broken body. And a storm was rolling in. A Reader’s Digest classic, originally published in 2014.

background pattern © Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Trapped Inside a Glacier

Mountain climbers often fall through cracks in the ice, but those who survive haven’t fallen a long way, aren’t by themselves and aren’t injured. John All was all three.

a smiling man standing in front of a mountain © Photo: Courtesy Molei Wright

"Don't Die. I Love You."

A devastating collision left Molei Wright’s head attached to her shoulders by nothing but skin and muscle. The odds of surviving the condition, known as internal decapitation, are one in 100.

map © Illustration: Steven P. Hughes

The Rattler's Revenge

When Jeremy Sutcliffe decapitated the poisonous snake, he assumed that would be the end of it. He was wrong.

© Photo: Alexander Gronsky

Stalked By a Polar Bear

After crash landing in the frigid waters of the Davis Straight, Russian helicopter pilot Sergey Ananov must battle severe hypothermia, crushing fear and one very persistent predator.

a man that is standing in the grass © Photo: Veronica Sagredo/Blueclick Photography

Pinned to the Earth—With Only a Pocket Knife to Escape

The sugar-cane paddock was quiet as Barry Lynch’s scream pierced the air. The farmer was pinned to the earth by a 10-ton trailer and kilometres away from help.

© Illustration: Dominic Bugatto

Shark Attack

“Something huge hit me with tremendous force on my left side and heaved me through the water. I realized I had been attacked by a shark.”

a view of a snow covered mountain © Photo: Shutterstock

On Fragile Ground: Trapped and Alone on Mount Logan

Natalia Martinez’s ambition to stake a claim for female climbers took her to Canada’s highest peak. That same determination would save her life.

a cat in the snow © Photo: ShutterStock

Blizzard Bound

The day had dawned crisp and clear, but early spring can be an unpredictable time on northern roads. Ernest Castel and his passengers would soon be stranded in their car, buried under a massive Manitoba snowstorm.

a man standing next to a body of water © Photo: Oliver Koning/Reader's Digest

Two Pilots Were Flying from Oahu to Hawaii—Then They Heard the Engines Go Quiet

They swam through jellyfish, the threat of sharks and 25 kilometres of exhaustion before being sighted.

a man standing in front of a mountain: The engulfing flames burned as hot as 1,500 degrees Celsius. © Photo: David Finlayson The engulfing flames burned as hot as 1,500 degrees Celsius.

The River of No Return

When a rock-climbing trip goes disastrously wrong, a 13-year-old boy is forced to make a heartrending decision: should he leave his severely injured father to look for help?

a group of cockpit © Photo: Shutterstock

Failure on Flight 516

High over northern Russia, an airplane's control systems begin switching off, one by one...

a large waterfall over a body of water © Photo: Shutterstock

Stranded at the Top of a Waterfall, These Rafters' Only Hope Was to Send a Message in a Bottle

It was a long shot... but it worked.

a close up of a dog © Freder/Getty Images

The Chilling Story of a Wolf That Tore Into a Family’s Tent During the Night

"Backing out was a wolf, dragging something in his teeth. That thing was a man."

Next, check out these good news stories from around the world.

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