Her survival instinct kicked in big time in order to save her family.
It was the love for her husband and son that kept Karen Klein alive after getting stuck in a ditch during a blizzard over the weekend.
"I can't leave my son without a mom," she told NBC 10. "I can't leave my husband without a wife."
The 46-year-old mom was vacationing in Las Vegas with husband Eric and 10-year-old son Issac when the family decided to check out the Grand Canyon in a rental car. But when their GPS directed them down State Route 67, they quickly discovered it was closed for the winter and impassable, so they sought an alternate route.
But then the blizzard hit, they lost cell service, and the car got stuck in a ditch on a forest road. With the temperatures dropping, the Kleins knew they needed to act fast. So Karen—a marathon runner and triathlete—headed out into the storm in a parka and hiking boots to go find some help. She ate aspen twigs for stamina since she thought she'd only be gone for an hour or two. Instead, she was out in the elements for more than 30 hours in an effort to save her family!
"My shoe had filled up with snow and I couldn't put my shoe back on, so I was walking in my sock," she recalled. But still, the warrior mama kept going—hiking 26 miles through snow as deep as three feet before finally finding an empty visitor's center, breaking a window, and crawling inside.
Meanwhile, with no sign of his wife, Eric had hiked to higher ground to call for help on his cell, setting off a search and rescue mission that led to an exhausted Karen being rescued from the cabin 36 hours after she first stepped out of the car.
"And around 2:30, I heard the knocking at the door, I heard people outside and I saw all the flashlights," she told NBC 12. "Because I was like hallucinating and delirious... I yelled out 'I'm so sorry officer that I broke your window... don't arrest me for breaking the window.'"
Even in her weakest moment, this amazing mama was still thinking of others! Now she's recvoering in a local hospital, where she's being treated for severe frostbite. And while authorities are calling the happy ending a Christmas miracle, Karen chalks her perseverance up to simply being a mom.
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"That instinct just kicks in," she explained. "You have to protect your family. You just keep driving forward. You just have to keep moving forward."
Way to go, Hero Mama!
Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.