Paul Oakley, a Mormon missionary was visiting a Guatemalan zoo when two lions attacked him in July. Two months later, the 20-year-old is missing part of his leg and entire right arm, but is thankful for the day that God saved his life.
“Accidents happen. We don’t plan them. They just happen,” said Oakley. “I wasn’t planning on getting attacked by lions. It happened and I’m just going to move on.”
Oakley was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Guatemala City South Mission, when a group of missionaries decided to visit a nearby zoo. The group was looking at a pair of lions when Oakley attempted to take a picture of his colleagues by scaling a cement wall outside the back of the cage.
Oakley saw the lion coming towards him but before the missionary could react, the lion reached through the cage and grabbed his right leg, causing him to fall back against the cage.
A second lion then grabbed Oakley’s left arm with its mouth.
“I looked down at my camera and out of the corner of my eye, I see a lion coming around the corner real fast," he said.
“I looked up and saw everyone and I just yelled for help,” he said. “I put my arm up on the cage to start pulling away from that claw on my calf and a second lion got my arm and I was pinned to the fence.”
“I was just pinned there-- one lion on my calf, one lion on my arm-- and I was just watching them playing with my arm.”
Oakley tried to get one of the lions off by punching and gouging its eyeball out, but “that didn’t work because it’s [sic] a lion and that doesn’t hurt them,” he said. Oakley’s tendons in his thumb are now torn from pressing so hard on his attacker’s eyeball.
He eventually escaped the lions’ grasp and was transported to a Guatemalan hospital six hours away, where he endured five hours of surgery.
Doctors told the 20-year-old he lost nearly 60 percent of his blood from the injuries. Oakley received a blood transfusion almost immediately after arriving at the hospital. He spent four days in the Guatemalan hospital before being transferred to another facility in Utah. Oakley spent 38 days at the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray and now has physical therapy twice a week.
However, Oakley is not letting the experience get him down.
“This is not going to stop me much,” he said. “I have a whole life ahead of me and this is just a little stepping stone and I have got to deal with it.”