Amelia Dean’s parents said it was a “miracle that she is alive” following her encounter with North America’s largest mammal – which can weigh close to a tonne – while hiking in South Dakota’s Custer State Park.
The 19-year-old, who was due to start studying at the University of Edinburgh in September, was only on the second day of a month-long road trip across the US when she was hospitalised and left with complex injuries as a result of the attack, during which her femoral artery was severed.
Ms Dean and a friend were hiking with a dog on 16 June and were approaching the end of the trail when they came across the large male bison, which she recalled being some 300 feet away when it suddenly charged at her.
With the teenager “shocked into stillness”, the bison halted directly in front of her and the two stared at each other for a few moments before it “surged forwards, gorging her in the left thigh with his horn and throwing her head over heels about 10 to 15 feet in the air”, according to her parents Matthew and Jacqueline Dean.
After she hit the ground, Ms Dean then found herself “trapped, unable to move her bleeding leg, with the bison huffing directly over her, his feet by her head”, where he remained for some time until her friend was able to lead the animal away, her parents wrote in a GoFundMe appeal.
“I remember feeling the pressure on my hip. My hip being pushed back and I remember the sensation of flying in the air and going head over heels,” Ms Dean told local broadcaster KOTA-TV from her hospital bed in Rapid City, where she has been for seven weeks.
“The bison stuck around and his hoofs were right over my head … It’s a miracle I even lived until the ambulance got there, let alone kept my life and my leg. It’s a surreal enough experience let alone the fact that we weren’t doing anything that really warranted it. We were just having a walk in the park.”
As the bison’s horn pierced her leg, it tore through her femoral artery and caused severe damage to parts of her sciatic nerve, her parents said, adding: “She should have bled out in two to eight minutes after the severed artery and the ambulance didn’t arrive for 20 minutes. It is a miracle that she is alive today.”
Hospital staff “have done everything they can at this point, saving both Mia’s life and leg”, but she is “still suffering from severe nerve pain, numbness and hypersensitivity, paralysis and limited mobility below the knee, being unable to walk without walking aids, and managing only about 20 yards”, they said.
Warning that “Mia will need a least one operation to have a chance at regaining full motion” – which her current hospital is unable to carry out – her parents are appealing for financial help so that their daughter can be assessed by a nerve specialist from the Mayo Clinic, which her insurance will not cover.
“This could be Mia’s best chance to regain control of her foot, and time is running out,” they said, adding that initial tests alone cost around $8,000 (£6,500).
The couple, from Brockham in Surrey, said they “simply wish for her to be able to walk and dance again and live her life to the full, without chronic long-term pain”.
Their daughter said that she hoped her accident would not discourage people from travelling, telling KOTA-TV: “Travel and explore and have fun. This is a freak accident. This isn’t going to happen every time somebody walks in a park, hopefully.”