An explorer who was trapped in the nation's deepest cave for four days with a broken leg says at times the experience was "dreamlike" but she never gave up hope that she would get out.
Emily Mobley underwent surgery Friday to repair the fractured tibia in her left leg at Guadalupe Medical Center. Dr. Jerry Baggs, a surgeon at the Carlsbad hospital, gave Mobley a bone graft, and inserted two screws and a bolt in her leg."She's in very good condition" and should be back on her feet by Sunday, said hospital spokeswoman Ruth Mead. Baggs said Mobley has a reasonable chance of someday walking without a limp.
Well-wishers have sent Mobley numerous cards and flowers. "Every time I go in the room, there's more (flowers)," the spokeswoman said.
Mobley, 40, of Schoharie, N.Y., told The Associated Press that she gamely predicted she'd be back exploring caves by July. Baggs said that with intensive therapy and rehabilitation, Mobley might make good on the prediction.
Mobley, an expert spelunker, went into Lechuguilla Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park last Saturday as part of a mapping expedition that was supposed to last only 24 hours.
But about 6 a.m. Sunday, while climbing a slope about 1,000 feet into the cave, she grabbed an 80- to 100-pound boulder that broke loose. She fell about 12 feet, and the rock followed, hitting her leg just below the knee.
For the next four days, she lay in a stretcher, being carried, hoisted and scooted over giant boulders and through tight passages by expert cavers and rescuers who came from across the nation to help.
Mobley called the experience "dreamlike, in the fact that it just flowed so beautifully."
"I worried that it might take five or eight days rather than three or four, but I was never worried that I wasn't going to get out," Mobley said in a telephone interview from the hospital.
She said the precision of the rescue was more noteworthy than her own injury. The rescue ended in the wee hours of the morning Thursday when Mobley emerged from the nation's deepest cave.
The rescue involved more than 100 cavers, helped by another 100 local, state and federal officials.
Many of the rescuers averaged about 10 to 20 years caving experience.
Lechuguilla Cave in southeastern New Mexico is closed to the public and only open to highly trained cave explorers.
Explorers have mapped 54.3 miles of the tangled labyrinth of chambers, narrow passages and spectacular formations in the 1,565-foot-deep cave.
Don Coons, of Rutland, Ill., said he had arrived from a cave rescue in Mexico, in which a trapped explorer had died. Rescuers were unable to pull the explorer's body out, and he had to be buried in the cave.
Peter Jones of Maine said he introduced Mobley to caving in 1969 at the University of Denver.
"I have learned a lot," Jones said. "I think every caver who has gone into Lechuguilla has relearned or improved vertical techniques by being involved in this rescue."
Rescuers pulled the last of their equipment from the cave Friday. Most of it was out by 2 a.m.
The rescue was expected to cost taxpayers an estimated $110,000.
But Bob Crisman, Carlsbad Caverns National Park spokesman, said Mobley and other members of the Lechuguilla Cave Project research organization made up for that cost long ago by suspending their bodies over the cave's deep chasms to do research and give the information to the Park Service for free.
Utah's cave rescue unit is ready
An Ogden paramedic who helped rescue injured spelunker Emily Mobley in Carlsbad Caverns National Park got invaluable experience that may assist in any future cave rescue in Utah.
Dave Shurtz, president of Utah Cave Search and Rescue, has been working with the Ogden Fire Department to fine-tune the Utah unit's cave rescue skills.
Shurtz and a couple of dozen members from three spelunking clubs along the Wasatch Front have rescue drills in caves around the area. About 100 such drills already have been done, said his wife, Pat Shurtz.
"They are very good at what they do," she said.