As Cathy Frye lay on the ground lost in a remote Texas state park, too weak to take another step, she told her husband to leave her side and go look for help. The award-winning reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said it was the “most excruciating decision” she had to make, but one that probably saved her life.
“I didn’t want to die by myself. I knew we had to do something,” Frye told ABC News Monday night from her hospital bed.
With her husband, Democrat-Gazette photographer Rick McFarland, off to look for help, Frye spent two days alone in unfamiliar territory with barely any supplies; she wondered if she would ever see her two children again. Finally, rescue teams located her near-lifeless body in the thick brush of the park.
Frye, 43, was found Sunday hiding from the sun under a small tree, severely dehydrated with sunburns and cactus thorns all over her body. Frye was flown to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she remains in fair condition.
The couple’s harrowing journey began last Tuesday as they made their annual trip to of Big Bend National Park, where they were married. Because of the government shutdown, however, the park was closed and the couple was forced to relocate and went west to Big Bend Ranch State Park near the Mexico border, which was open despite the turmoil in Washington.
But Frye and McFarland, 58, got lost sometime Wednesday in the unfamiliar terrain with small quantities of food and water. Frye was exhausted by Friday and told her husband to carry on toward their truck and come back for her.
“If I can’t make it, one of us has to,” Frye said with tears in her eyes. “[It] was the most excruciating decision we had to make.”
McFarland carried on and by Saturday, he had found their truck and alerted authorities about his wife.
“The hardest part was seeing her clothes in the back of our truck when I went to change my clothes,” he said.
U.S. Border Patrol agents and the Texas Department of Public Safety officers were among the dozens who joined in the search to find Frye.
Frye was finally spotted Sunday afternoon and rescuers had to clear brush around her body to make room for a helicopter to land. She was eventually flown to El Paso.
“She looked really weak when we found her,” rescuer Fernando Rincon said. “She asked if her husband was alive and her reaction was very joyful once she was told he was OK.”
Frye joined the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 1999 and is a past winner of the Livingston Award given to journalists under the age of 35.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.