Navy veteran torn apart by giant grizzly makes stunning recovery, claims he ‘will win Round 2’

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A 61-year-old Navy veteran stumbled into a massive grizzly bear last month while hunting deer in Montana. Although Rudy Noorlander landed the first punch, the fight did not ultimately go his way. Rather, he left Custer Gallatin National Forest shredded and missing part of his face.

Although Noorlander parted ways with his lower jaw, he kept his faith and a strong sense of humor.

Discussing his recovery with reporters Friday and showcasing a new jaw, the veteran noted on his whiteboard, “Only by the hands of God am I here,”
adding, “I will win Round 2.”

What’s the background?

previously reported that on Sept. 8, Noorlander ventured into the Montana wild to assist a pair of hunters in tracking down a deer they had shot and killed.

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KateLynn Davis said her father, “being the Good Samaritan that he is, decided to help them search for it.”

While proceeding down Yellow Mule Trail in search of the fallen deer, Noorlander came across a small bear. He raised his rifle, hoping to scare away the cub, but was ambushed by its apparent behemothic guardian.

According to his daughter, “Rudy armed his gun at the bear, but his firearm misfired, making his best choice of defense his fists, as he did not have any time to get his bear spray from his backpack.”

average grizzly bear would have been well out of Noorlander’s weight class, yet this particular specimen was anything but average, reportedly standing some 10 feet tall.

“As the bear lunged, the only thing Rudy could do was punch the bear in hopes of slowing it down. Unfortunately, it did not, and after the first punch the grizzly was on top of Rudy,” wrote KateLynn Noorlander.

The bear swatted trenches down the veteran’s chest, bit his arms and legs, and then, “to top it all off, [the bear] gave him as what Rudy describes as the most disgusting French kiss of his life before biting down and tearing off his lower jaw,” his daughter
wrote on the GoFundMe page for her father.

reported that Noorlander also suffered a collapsed lung as a result of the attack.

According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’
guide on how to handle bear encounters, Noorlander appears to have gone by the book.

“Never run away. You cannot outrun a bear,” says the guidance. “If a bear follows you, or slowly, purposefully or methodically approaches you … [s]tand your ground. Get aggressive: wave your arms and shout vigorously. Get spray out and ready. Fight back if it makes contact.”

Following the attack, the two hunters whom Noorlander accompanied were able to scare off the bear and summon help.

Noorlander was airlifted to Bozeman Health Deaconess Regional Medical Center in Montana for emergency treatment, then taken to the University of Utah Hospital for jaw reconstruction.

Recovery and return

Noorlander evidenced his stunning recovery Friday, taking part in a press conference along with his two adult daughters and the surgeon responsible for his new jaw.

Although he can speak, he indicated it hurts “a little.” For now, he instead communicates using script on a whiteboard.

Dr. Hilary McCrary, a surgeon at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital specializing in head and neck surgery, performed the veteran’s jaw surgery. She told reporters, “The first thing that was so incredible to watch is just how enthusiastic Rudy was, even after being just attacked by a grizzly bear. He was very adamant that he was going to fight this thing and get through it and, at that point, he was still on a ventilator and had a chest tube and lots of lines everywhere,” reported KSL.

“For someone to be so enthusiastic about his prognosis and outcome that early is very heartwarming as a physician,” added McCrary.

The surgeon reportedly put two plates in the 61-year-old’s neck for stabilization, then a placeholder where his lower jaw once was. Her team reportedly developed a model jaw using Noorlander’s fibula, a bone in the lower leg. After fashioning him a new jaw bone, they used grafted skin from elsewhere on Noorlander’s body on the jaw as well as to create new bottom lip.

According to McCrary, the surgery took place on Sept. 28 and lasted 10 hours,
reported the Associated Press.

There remains a small wound under his chin that will need to heal, but soon he’ll be able to eat without fear of infection, suggested McCrary.

His family expressed optimism that he would soon be able to go home.

Noorlander told reporters via his whiteboard, “Only by the hands of God am I here. I’ve had a lot of inspirations and I felt the need to share my story with others, and believe it or not, I believe that this attack was an answer to my prayers and that, potentially, it could help somebody else going through something similar.”

He also said in a prewritten statement, “I just want to end this by saying most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. Even if there seems to be no hope, keep on fighting.”

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University of Utah surgeons reattach man’s jaw following grizzly bear

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