Wildlife worker Amber Kornak was attacked near a stream on May 17

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 23, 2018 07:21 PM
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A 28-year-old woman who finally earned her “dream job” working as a grizzly bear researcher is now recovering in the hospital from serious injuries after she was attacked by one of the powerful animals.

Amber Kornak, a seasonal wildlife technician with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was mauled by a bear while working alone near a stream in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana on May 17.

Kornak was able to reach for her canister of bear deterrent during the attack, which allowed her to fend off the animal and save her life, her friend Jenna Hemer said on a GoFundMe page set up to help the injured animal lover in her recovery.

Despite the brutal attack leaving the wildlife technician with two skull fractures and multiple lacerations to her head, neck and back, Karnak mustered the strength to walk nearly two miles — bloody and in pain — to her work vehicle to find help.

Once medical personnel responded, Hemer wrote, Kornak was life-flighted to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where she went through four hours of surgery to remove bone fragments and clean the wounds to her brain.

Amber Kornak
| Credit: GoFundMe

Once at the hospital, doctors placed metal plates and screws in Kornak’s skull and used drains to divert the liquid from her swelling brain.

Doctors were able to stabilize Kornak in the days that followed, Hemer wrote in an update, and she has since been downgraded from the ICU and had the drains removed from her head.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

“Physically she’s doing better, she has a little more energy and strength,” Hemer tells PEOPLE of her friend. “She’s craving pizza like crazy! That’s what she’s looking forward to the most!”

Credit: GoFundMe

“Amber is doing well, considering, but it’s going to take a long time but I think she’ll be back to her normal self,” Hemer says. “I’m shocked by how well she is doing, though, but knowing her, it doesn’t surprise me, at the same time.”

“She’s just amazed everybody with how well she is recovering.”

Wildlife officials recently confirmed that the animal that attacked Kornak a grizzly bear, Hemer tells PEOPLE.

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While Kornak’s medical bills will be covered by insurance, Hemer is hoping to use the GoFundMe page to raise funds to help Kornak with other expenses, like rent, while she is out of work. Doctors haven’t yet given the family a timetable for when she may be released, and it may be even longer before she is back on the field.

“Anyone who knows Amber knows that she is fierce, and will fight like hell to recover as quickly as possible,” Hemer wrote on the page. “However, this has created quite an obstacle for her. Her family and friends are reaching out in order to help her with her monthly bills while she is out of work indefinitely.”

So far, the GoFundMe has raised $30,000 of its $50,000 goal.