M I S S I O N V I E J O, Calif. Jan. 12 -- Those who know Anne Hjelle, the mountain biker who was viciously attacked by a mountain lion last week, say they're not surprised that their "top sprocket" is already on the road to recovery.
"She's a little girl of 5 foot 4, but she is a powerhouse inside," Hjelle's father Llloyd said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "She's got a competitive edge and a wonderful personality."
Debi Nicholls, Hjelle's friend and biking partner, fought back tears as she described the attack on Hjelle. Nicholls said that as she tried to get the mountain lion to release Hjelle, she kept telling her friend that she would not let her die.
"Anne is extremely strong and I wanted her to know she wasgoing to have me with her," Nicholls said. "That's all I knew to do was to grab and hold on."
Hjelle, a former Marine nicknamed "top sprocket," was upgraded to fair condition and continues to recover at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo, Calif.
The 30-year-old fitness instructor was admitted Thursday, after being rescued from Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, where she was attacked by the mountain lion while biking on the wooded trails.
Hjelle's church pastor, Phil Munsey, shared a statement Hjelle wanted to pass on from her hospital bed.
"We are grateful for Debi's [Nicholls] courage and selflessness and to all the others whose valiant efforts saved my life and for the doctors … thank you, we know the process of healing will take time," Hjelle said in the statement.
Hjelle's father has said there are more surgeries for his daughter in the weeks ahead, despite her upgraded state. Her family expects that she will be undergoing plastic surgery for the neck and face wounds in the next week.
"The family is still overwhelmed by the fact that she is still with us," Hjelle said. "We feel it is an absolute miracle," he said.