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A woman from the US woke up from a coma on Wednesday after she and her son were attacked by a giraffe on a wildlife reserve in South Africa.

Wildlife biologist Katy Williams, 35, and her 3-year-old son were rushed to the hospital on September 3 after being kicked by a giraffe on the Blyde Wildlife Estate, where Williams lives with her son, Finn, and her husband Dr. Sam Williams.

“[They] went into a wooded section, went into a clearing and instantly a giraffe came at them,” Williams’ father told ABC News. “She had nowhere to run and nothing to do.” The giraffe had to be chased away by Williams’ husband, who happened upon the attack after coming back from a run.

The giraffe’s kicking was so brutal that Williams, originally from Baltimore, needed surgery and did not regain consciousness until Wednesday, the New York Post reports. When she awoke, she could only communicate through sign language, according to NBC News. The 3-year-old boy also needed surgery because of pressure building on his brain. He is reported to be in stable condition.

Officials guess that the impetus for the vicious attack might have been that the female giraffe thought the Williams and her son were threats to the safety of her offspring. It’s a good hypothesis — animals have been known to attack tourists or anyone who might be perceived as dangerous to their young. At least four people earlier this summer were attacked by elk protecting their calves in Yellowstone National Park, and a 10-year-old boy was charged and knocked to the ground by a bear on one of the park’s hiking trails.

Wildlife experts say to give any animal you encounter on a reserve or in a national park plenty of space. Sometimes, people find themselves in an animal’s path and can’t do anything about it. That seems to have been the case with Williams and her son.

“I can ensure you that Katy would never have deliberately put herself or Finn in danger,” her father told NBC News. “We hold no judgment against the giraffe. This is just the way nature is and we accept that.”

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