A hunter who was mutilated by a grizzly bear in a terrifying encounter has had his face rebuilt over the last year thanks to the work of pioneering surgeons.
Last year Lee Brooke, 60, was approaching an elk he had shot while hunting in the mountains of Wyoming when a 420-pound female bear attacked him from behind. She ripped off half of his face and knocked him unconscious.
When he woke up to feel the bear was sniffing at his cheek. He told Fox31 Denver, “I could feel the whiskers.”
Even though he was unable to see, blood soaking his eyes, Lee managed to grab a steak knife from his pocket and stabbed the bear in the head. The blow caused the bear to retreat which gave Lee the chance to escape.
Lee was badly mutilated and bleeding heavily, and not sure he would survive. He screamed out for help, vowing that he would live long enough to see his wife Martha again.
His screams were heard by his brother-in-law George Neal, who found him and also retrieved his severed nose and upper lip before helping him down the mountain where they could call for help. Lee had been separated from his hunting party when the incident occurred.
As a result of the attack, after Lee was rushed to the hospital, he was put in a medically induced coma for one month at the Swedish Burn and Reconstructive Unit in Colorado.He endured hours of surgery to keep him alive and preserve part of his nose. His most complicated surgery lasted 24 hours.
Lee’s nose is now affixed to his arm receiving blood from it. Doctors may one day be able to use what’s left of his nose to reconstruct a new one on his face. “Then I’ll be a new Lee,” he said.
Skin grafts from Lee’s right leg were used to create much of his current face. He has several metal plates and screws in his head and bones in his face were partially constructed from leg bone.
Over the course of two months, Lee was in rehab Learning how to eat again, exercising and dealing with physiological trauma.
Surgeon Lily Daniali told Fox, “We didn’t just fix his body, we really wanted to make sure that he recovered mentally.”
The extensive injuries to his face have rendered Lee unable to control tears. He depends on a tracheal tube to talk.
Recounting his ordeal Lee told friends, “I should’ve bled to death right there. I should’ve drowned on my blood.”