It was Gan Yu's strong will to survive that got him through the 17 days trapped in the mountains following a 6.8-magnitude earthquake in China's Sichuan Province.
"All I was thinking about was living. Rescuers must be trying to find me. I must survive," said Gan, a worker at a hydropower station in Sichuan's Luding County.
He was rescued by local villager Ni Taigao on Sept. 21 and is now receiving treatment at West China Hospital of Sichuan University.
"It is indeed a miracle of life," said Wang Guanglin, an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital.
Recounting his 17-day ordeal, the 28-year-old expressed a rare calmness. "Having survived the quake, I feel how fortunate I am, unlike those who have lost their lives," he said.
When the quake struck on Sept. 5, Gan and his colleague Luo Yong were in their dorm at the hydropower station. They rushed outside and later managed to rescue one of the two workers who had been trapped in the debris.
Seeing the water level of the dam continue to rise, Gan and Luo immediately decided to release some water to prevent flooding.
While Luo climbed up the dam to release the water, Gan was left to take care of the rescued worker, who later died.
On Sept. 6, the two men walked out of the station to find rescuers, but on Sept. 7, Gan became too weak to walk further and decided to stay where he was to wait for rescuers. Luo continued walking.
On Sept. 8, Luo was found by rescuers who had been drawn to the site by the smoke of a fire he lit.
After waiting for rescuers for three days, Gan decided to keep walking.
"Walking in the mountains, I kept calling for help. I tried to make a fire, but I didn't have any tools, and it was very wet in the woods. It rained almost every night," Gan recalled.
Hearing some "scary" noises late at night, Gan had to "hide in a dark corner and huddle up, afraid to make a sound."
He was later hit on the foot by a rock, an injury that limited his mobility. However, his strong will to survive never faded.
"I couldn't give up. My family was still waiting for me. Rescuers must be trying to find me. I must survive," he recalled.
He drank water collected from the moss and picked kiwi fruits for food. During the day, he slept in the sun to save his strength. At night, he found places to hide but he dared not sleep, lest he be found by wild animals.
After staying in the mountains for more than 10 days, Gan lost track of time. "I just lay on the ground and slept for a while, and I felt like a day had passed," he said.
At the most difficult moment, he was so tired and hungry that he couldn't move. He had no choice but to drink his own urine to survive. "I had to do everything I could to stay alive," he said.
On Sept. 21, the 17th day in the wildness, Gan was excited to hear a faint voice from afar. He immediately shouted "Help!" at the top of his voice. Hearing a response, Gan said excitedly, "I am saved!"
After being rescued by villager Ni, Gan was rushed to a local hospital by helicopter, and transferred later that night to an intensive-care unit at West China Hospital.
Gan's condition improved after three days' treatment in the unit. He is due for an operation on Wednesday and is expected to be discharged from the hospital at the end of the week, according to Wang, the surgeon.
Looking ahead, Gan said he was going to have a good meal, before returning to his post.
"I am not a hero. I was just lucky to survive. I have all the more reason to live a good life," Gan said.