Woman relives terrifying hippo attack

Kristen Yaldor said her life flashed before her eyes when she was attacked by a hippopotamus while canoeing during an African safari.
4:07 | 01/31/19

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Transcript for Woman relives terrifying hippo attack
We're back with that ABC news exclusive, the American tourist hospitalized after an encounter with a hippo in Zimbabwe breaking her silence telling all about those terrifying moments. How she survived. She spoke with Paula Faris, and, Paula, she literally had to fight for her life. She did. Good morning, everyone. She wrestled a hippo's mouth open after it pulled her under water for 45 seconds breaking her femur and said it was her ability to stay calm during the attack that ultimately saved her life. Kristen and Ryan yaldor were all smiles on their African adventure last month but nothing could have prepared them for what was about to happen. I didn't have any fear getting into the canoe whatsoever. The travel and wildlife enthusiasts were canoeing with two tour guides when one of the guides said he saw something ahead. He did tell us initially with his binoculars he did see hippos, a group of hippos, he said, up on the right-hand side and would need to paddle over to the left-hand side. They steered to the left. Then what happens? Shortly thereafter is when something popped up underneath our canoe, more toward the middle. The canoe tipped forward to where I fell into the water forward and towards the deep side. I took two strokes towards the shoreline. Reporter: The young couple both thrown from the canoe. A terrifying drama. And immediately I was grabbed and pulled underneath the water. Didn't have a chance to scream. So quick and so forceful I got pulled under and then was starting to be thrashed around underneath the water back and forth. Reporter: A hippo had its mouth firmly wrapped around her right leg pulling her underwater thrashing her back and forth for 45 seconds. Above the water, her husband swam to shore, looked back and feared the worst. I grabbed its mouth between my leg and tried to pry it open. Then it finally let me go and I popped up to the surface and tried to swim and I couldn't swim. Reporter: She was helpless with a smashed knee and a broken leg. Was there a moment where you thought I'm not going to make it? Only after I came back up and thought if it grabbed me again I don't think I could survive that again. I backstroked towards the shoreline and then my husband and the two guides pulled me out of the water and put me into the canoe safely on the shore. Reporter: Escaping the jawss of a hippo is no small feat. It can weigh up to five tons. While herbivores they kill 500 people in Africa every year but this was just the beginning of Kristen's harrowing journey home. First it was a 45-minute wait for paramedics. I started screaming, if I'm bleeding out I'm going to lose my life. Reporter: A tourist helicopter had to be converted to a medevac and then a two-week hospitalization in johannesburg and finally a 30-hour air ambulance ride making seven stops all the way home to Tampa. If the bite had happened in an area of your leg would you be alive. Probably not. An inch or so in another direction she probably would have bled out in the canoe. I choose not to think about that because she is here, she is alive and every more reason to be thankful she is here. Reporter: She's had seven surgeries. Doctors believe she will make a full recovery but they will continue living their lives and planning their next adventure swimming with sharks. You're kidding. Not kidding. This hippo came out of nowhere and saw it go underwater on the opposite side of the bank and swam underwater and crept up on them and next thing they know, overboard. I've done this and you can't see them until they pop up. Even when you're in boats they stop the boat and back the boat up. You know hippos are in the water. Unfortunately I did and I still went out there but I've seen this story. There's no way that was going to happen but seem to keep on living their lives. She dis not blame the animal at all. We were in their element. That's right. It's true. Great story. Thank you, Paula. Coming up, what may be the

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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