How an Elderly Man With True Grit Survived a Week Injured In the Woods

By Heather Callaghan

If you were injured in the woods where no one could find you and you couldn’t even get up and walk around – how would you survive?

Any way possible.

That’s what happened to a missing man from Avon, New York. Donald Farrell, age 70, disappeared on August, 9th. After the older man was missing for an entire week, one wonders if hope for rescue began to diminish.

According to police, he had followed two deer off a trail near his western New York home while taking his morning walk, but lost his footing and fell. For days, he laid there, unable to get back up and only survived by drinking rain water off leaves.

That is hardcore survival and that takes grit.


To top it off, after a week of surviving on nothing but leaf water and sheer will, Farrell was actually able to continue yelling for help. He had been the former Avon fire chief – maybe he thought “just hang in there.”

His cousin had continued searching nearby for him and the sound of Farrell led to the rescue on Sunday morning. He was found in a ditch in a field off of River Rd in the Town of Caledonia, two miles from his home. He was initially taken to Strong Hospital and treated for exposure. His cousin, Steve Linder, reports that it was not probable any of the rescue planes or boats would have discovered him, as he said one needed to “walk right on top of him” to find him.

13 WHAM reported:

Friends, family, first responders, State Police and NYS Forest Rangers, from across the region, spent more than 1,532 hours sweeping through fields, homes, garages, dumpsters and water for Farrell.

You might think Farrell wasn’t “out of the woods” yet, and in danger of dying from extreme conditions after the rescue. Or, that he would be in intensive care; maybe in critical condition at best. No, Farrell is getting some much-needed rest at Rochester Hospital in satisfactory condition. A condition you rarely hear in a news story especially one so against all odds.

Who knows, maybe it’s providential that a mild injury that forced him to stay in that spot of the woods which led to his rescue, as opposed to trekking farther into the woods looking for food and water, and perishing from exhaustion. On the other hand, it’s fortunate that he survived the week and was discovered at all.

How do you think you would survive if this happened to you?

Survive those woods – books for skills and grit:

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at and Like at Facebook.

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