'We're Still Fighting That Lion,' Says Wife Who Saved Husband's Life

The man who was attacked by a mountain lion is scheduled to undergo about six hours of reconstructive surgery today.

Doctors at San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center have upgraded 70-year-old Jim Hamm's condition from critical to stable.

His wife of nearly 50 years, Nell Hamm, came to his rescue with a log and a ball point pen, which she used to fight off the lion and save her husband's life.

Nell, 65, gave a graphic description of her brave rescue in a news conference Tuesday.

"When someone you love, when their life is being threatened, you're not going to run away," she said. "You're just going to do what you have to do."

The mountain lion pounced on Jim during a hike in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California. With Jim's head literally inside the lion's mouth, Nell began to beat the animal with a log.

All the while, Jim managed to talk to Nell.

"He said, 'There's a pen in my pocket. Get the pen and poke it in the eye,'" Nell said. "I jabbed it and expected it to go right into the eye socket. It went in a little way. It was like it was hitting this table."

"So I picked up my big club again. I got that club and raised it up and started screaming with everything I had as loud as I could. It's just like a miracle. She just looked and went off into the ferns."

Fighting for His Life

Game wardens have tracked, shot and killed the suspected lion in the attack.

Steve Martarano of the California Department of Fish and Game said that were it not for Nell's fight, the lion would have likely overtaken her husband.

"There's probably no doubt he would have been killed," Martarano said. "If it wasn't for her efforts. … He just wouldn't have survived."

In a hospital bed with deep cuts and bite marks, Jim also credited Nell for saving his life.

"She stood in there the whole time," he said. "If she hadn't, I would be gone. … No doubt about it. … I'd be gone."

Jim continues to fight for his life.

As part of a complex operation, doctors will take muscle tissue from Jim's back and use it to patch a section on his skull that was torn during the attack last week.

Nell said she didn't have to think twice about fighting for her husband. The couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in two weeks, and Jim will be there.

"Today was the first time I noticed, if anything, Jim was a little bit down," Nell said Tuesday.

"I told him I'm not willing to give him up and I fought like hell to keep him here and I'm going to continue to fight. We're still fighting that lion, and we're going to win. We're going to pull him through this because I need him," she said.