"Statistically, I Shouldn't Be Here" — 14 People Who Had A Slim Chance At Survival Are Sharing Their Stories, And I'm At A Loss For Words

"Statistically, I Shouldn't Be Here" — 14 People Who Had A Slim Chance At Survival Are Sharing Their Stories, And I'm At A Loss For Words

Content warning: Discussions of near-death experiences, assault, and attempted homicide.

From Ernest Shackleton and crew's 800-mile Antarctic journey to survival in 1915, to modern stories of cancer diagnoses and recovery, survival stories offer hope and often serve as a testament to human perseverance.

A woman wearing a headscarf rings a bell while a nurse and two doctors applaud, celebrating the end of her treatment
Richlegg / Getty Images

And while not always easy to read, survival stories are giant reminders of how precious life can be. To be human is to endure, and sometimes endure the most extreme.

A group of people pull a large boat across a snowy landscape while another person watches
Royal Geographical Society / Royal Geographical Society via Getty Images

Since I often find myself reading tales of humans on the brink — whether lost at sea or battling a rare disease — I asked the BuzzFeed Community to share their "one-in-a-million" survival stories with me. Their responses genuinely shook me to my core (prepare yourself mentally) and reminded me not to take any moment for granted. Here's everything they shared:

1."My 'one-in-a-million odds' story happened when I sustained major injuries in a car crash three years ago. My boyfriend of five years was driving my 2-year-old daughter and me down the highway to get dinner with my family. Our daughter was being fussy, so I turned around to comfort her, and he did the same. He wasn't thinking of the road because we were focused heavily on our daughter's welfare at the time (since she was a toddler and we were first-time parents). I screamed at him to turn around, but it was too late."

A man and a woman sitting in a car. The man is in the driver's seat looking back, while the woman in the passenger seat looks at him

2."Just over two years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst headache ever. I got up and groggily told my husband I was going out to the couch — luckily, I collapsed on the way, which got my husband up to see what was happening. Had I made it to the couch, I would not be here. He quickly called 911, thinking I had passed out from a migraine. When he got to the hospital, they brought him into a room and told him I had had a catastrophic brain hemorrhage and wasn't going to make it."

A person holding their head in pain, standing in a blurred room, looking distressed

3."Twelve years ago, I had a severe aortic dissection with damage to the aorta and multiple valves. The surgeon said it looked like a gunshot from a high-caliber weapon. I survived long enough to receive my last rites and say goodbye to my family. The surgeon said he lied to my wife when he told her I had a 2% chance of survival. He told me I had less than 1%."

"After a 7-hour surgery, I was placed in a coma. It took two weeks in ICU, two more in critical care, and a month in recovery. After 5 months of rehab, I returned to work on light duty. At the one-year anniversary, my surgeon actually called me. He was astounded at my progress but also said he wasn't surprised because I was 'the most stubborn SOB he ever met' in his 48-year career."


4."A friend of mine was run over by a tractor. It caught her foot and ended up running over both of her legs. She should have died, yet she got up and walked away from it with nothing worse than flesh wounds. None of us who witnessed it could believe it actually happened, with the entire community calling it a bonafide miracle once the word got out. Of course, she quit baling hay after that and got an office job."

A green tractor drives down a rural dirt road with grassy fields and trees in the background under a partly cloudy sky
Photoschmidt / Getty Images/iStockphoto

5."In 1986, I was diagnosed with HIV and told to 'get my affairs in order' in the six months I had left to enjoy. I was 35. I'm now 73. I'm sure the public health worker who told me my test results is long gone. Surprise, I'm still here."

"Since then, I've beaten hepatitis C, pneumonia on several occasions, spinal fusion surgery, and sepsis caused by kidney stones. It's called 'practicing' medicine for a reason. Don't get me wrong. I'm here because I followed the doctors' orders. BUT… they're NOT infallible. I relish getting older and continuing to prove them wrong."


6."When I was 17 and a senior in high school, I had a second stroke. I went to Duke University Medical Center to have the leaky blood vessel fixed, and I 'died' during surgery. After some quick action by my doctor and the wonderful surgical team down there, my heart was restarted. The first 18 years of my life are a blur, but now that's all a very distant memory as I've got a house, a wife, and two beautiful kids."

Surgeons perform a procedure in an operating room, wearing scrubs, masks, and caps, with surgical lights overhead


Jacoblund / Getty Images

7."When I was a baby, I was in a car accident that resulted in a TBI, which resulted in epilepsy. Life hasn't been kind to my family; my mother passed away from colon cancer at the age of 37. My father took this hard, and between his grief plus his abusive past as a child, he abandoned me. He convinced me I had ADHD, couldn't function, and had low expectations for me, often saying I wouldn't amount to anything. This was based on my epilepsy, learning patterns, and other things."

"When I was 18, he attempted several times to get me supplemental security income and made several calls to find a group home for disabled adults because he didn't think I could take care of myself or achieve anything... I've been seizure-free since 1995 without medication, learned how to drive playing Crusin' USA in a game arcade (true story, y'all), and graduated college with a degree in early childhood and a minor in social sciences. I was recently diagnosed with a form of dyslexia at 51 years of age. Not bad, huh?"


8."Not me, but my son had a slim chance to survive after birth. During labor, I was told that I needed to have a cesarean because my son's heart rate was dropping. At the time, he had a small coarctation in his heart that caused a decrease in beats. When he was finally taken out of me, I didn't hear him cry at all. I was told that he swallowed meconium in the womb and that it filled his lungs. Shortly after he was born, he was given so many treatments, but there was nothing the doctors could do for the first two days."

A pregnant woman lying in a hospital bed, wearing a gown, with hands resting on her belly

(Cont'd) "The head nurse said it was the worst case of meconium she had ever seen, and she was a nurse for 30 years. While he was on life support, a little girl next to us who experienced that same thing died. We were devastated for the parents and scared of what would happen to our son."

"After living in the Ronald McDonald house for almost three months and multiple surges, our son started getting better and better. The head doctor eventually apologized for stating her negative comments when we first arrived. We were able to walk out of the hospital with a healthy baby. He's now a spry 10-year-old living a normal life."


9."My twin sister and I were born in 1993 at 26 weeks. I was 750 grams (~1.65 lbs). We both needed incubators for weeks and could not be touched. They wrapped me in bubble wrap to keep me warm. My sister and I are both neurodivergent, but survived with few lasting effects. We are very lucky. The stats at that age, and especially at that time, meant we were very likely to die or be severely impaired. My dad still can't talk about that time. The doctors and nurses were amazing, and I met one 20 years later. Thank goodness for the NHS."

Newborn babies in incubators in a neonatal intensive care unit, surrounded by medical equipment and monitors
Jazzirt / Getty Images

10."I was born with a heart defect in 1971. They did surgery on me when I was 13 months old, and they told my parents I wouldn't live until 12. At 19, I had another heart surgery to repair a hole in my heart. I was told I might make it to 30, but I would never have kids. At 30, I had my first child and then another at 32. Ten months later, I was taken to the hospital with encephalitis, and they told my husband I wouldn't survive the night. They were surprised when I not only survived but had no brain damage."

"I then went on to have two more heart surgeries before my 50th birthday after being told the damage to my heart would kill me by my 40th birthday. Last year, one month before my 52nd birthday, I was diagnosed with endocarditis. I spent 26 weeks in the hospital, 32 weeks on IV antibiotics, and am now on oral antibiotics for life. Just one week after my PICC line was pulled, I lost my partner of 32 years in a hiking accident. I am struggling with PTSD and grief, but I am still here, 12 years after they told me I would be."


11."I was in a motorcycle crash almost nine years ago. A truck and trailer ran a stop sign, and I slammed into the side of the trailer. I slid under the trailer, was dragged 80 ft, and became pinned under the trailer's weight. A guy was driving behind the truck and trailer to meet his friend for morning coffee and lived nearby (they were farmers). He realized I was pinned and ran to get his friend to bring out equipment to get the trailer off me."

A motorcycle accident with a fallen bike, helmet on the ground, and a damaged car in the background

12."My mother abandoned my sister and I with our drug dealer father when we were little. Our childhood was a nightmare, and we had to fight and scrape to get by and grow up without basic needs, financial support, or any substantial opportunities, all while coping with the mental and emotional impacts of childhood trauma. At 16, I was addicted to methamphetamine and homeless, squatting in an empty apartment I found that wasn't locked."

"Fifteen years later, with only the GED I got years after dropping out of high school, I earn six figures a year in a STEM field I learned on the job and own a home. Not only did I survive, but I somehow survived well. Statistically, I definitely shouldn't be here."


13."I usually took a familiar road to work on, where I knew all the icy spots, but this morning, I took a different road that I was unfamiliar with. When I started to skid on the ice, I overcorrected, which spun me the other way. So here I am, watching this snowbank get a little closer and closer... I knew I was going to hit it. I even braced myself for it... then BOOM! I feel myself being lifted up as if I were on a ride, and everything got spun around, and then nothing."

A car driving on a snow-covered road at night with headlights on, creating a blurred effect. No identifiable persons are in the image

(Cont'd) "As I sat there, I tried to figure out what to do. My eyes kept watering, and they felt very big (being unconscious and upside down made them swell like plums). I wasn't feeling much pain or even cold (it was -27 C), but I knew something was wrong because I felt pressure in my chest and back, and I couldn't breathe well. I tried to find my cellphone but couldn't find it anywhere. Sitting there, I realized no one was coming. If I was going to get help, I had to do it myself. I couldn't see any houses, but I did notice a row of big pine trees, and there's usually a house behind them (that's what I was praying for anyway)."

An overturned car lies upside down beside a snowy, deserted road, indicating an accident in a wintery landscape

(Cont'd) "I felt horrible about that and debated whether or not to just leave, but then I noticed a little cellphone amongst the clutter on the table (their 17-year-old daughter just happened to forget it that day). I called 911. They asked me where I was. I had no idea where I walked, so I couldn't tell them. I thought they could track the phone, but apparently, that's a common misconception. They sent out an ambulance to the general area where I was driving. I looked for some mail in the house to find an address but couldn't find one. Then, just by happenstance, the ambulance driver on his way to the area knew the family whose house I was at! Gotta love small towns, lol."

A cluttered desk includes a laptop, tissues, dumbbell, calculator, various papers, a screwdriver, and a container of candy

And lastly:

14."My story is absolutely stranger than fiction. As I write this out, I'm not sure I would believe me if I didn't have the scars and news coverage to back me up... In 2019, my then-husband had a psychotic break and tried to kill me. He had been struggling for months and refused help. I had a feeling something would happen, but not like this."

"I came home on my lunch break, and he ambushed me with an 8-inch chef knife. All in all, he stabbed me 26 times. Twelve were classified as 'defensive wounds,' and the rest were devastating blows to my neck, head, back, and stomach. I fought as hard as I could, but he more than outmatched me in strength and size. When I was too exhausted to continue, or maybe when I finally realized I wasn't going to win (I'm stubborn), I laid down, told him, 'You got me, I'm dying,' and closed my eyes."

(Cont'd) "He fled, and with the last bit of adrenaline I had — it's a POWERFUL hormone — I was able to get up, crawl to my phone, and call an ambulance. I could feel myself going into shock, and I could hear air escaping my lungs from one of the blows. When the paramedics arrived, I heard one of them repeat, 'She's not going to make it.' Now, remember, I'm stubborn, so once I heard that, it was as though he extended a challenge, and I gladly accepted. To this day, I believe that EMT is a huge factor as to why I'm alive."

Two paramedics load a person on a stretcher into an ambulance at night

Thank you to all the incredible survivors who shared their stories — if you have a "one-in-a-million" shot at survival story and want to share, let us know in the comments.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger as a result of domestic violence, call 911. For anonymous, confidential help, you can call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or chat with an advocate via the website.