“I had to dig out the trash from my respiratory tract”

A man who was severely disfigured after being attacked by a ferocious bear has shared his incredible survival story in the hope that it can help others who find themselves in a similar situation.

The attack took place in 2011, but 65-year-old Wes Perkins still bears the scars of a terrifying encounter with a grizzly in the mountains of Alaska. Mr. Perkins, a former Nome City fire chief, was interviewed by YouTuber Dannie Rose for a short video released last month detailing the attack.

Mr. Perkins was hunting with his friend Dan Stang and Stang’s son Edward. The trio tracked down a “nice bear” and drove around the hill hoping to find it, but before they could hunt it down, the animal emerged from the hole it had dug and surprised Mr. Perkins.

The bear attacked Mr. Perkins, causing him to lose his teeth, tongue and jaw before being defeated and eventually killed by Mr. Stang and his son. To survive, Mr. Perkins instinctively removed the mud from his fresh wounds and was then airlifted for medical attention.

“I was basically keeping my airway open and had to dig up debris from my airway when I lost my tongue, jaw and almost a couple of teeth,” Perkins said. Newsweek. “So telling myself to function and never close my eyes or lose consciousness was the main focus of concentration.”

Mr Stang said in a short documentary that the bear also tried to attack him before his son joined him in shooting him.

Meanwhile, Mr. Perkins was aware of his surroundings and even managed to talk to friends while they waited for help. Following Mr. Stang’s advice, Mr. Perkins buried his face in the snow to numb the pain.

Mr. Stang then radioed for help and Mr. Perkins’ brother answered the call and helped dispatch rescuers. When help arrived about an hour later, Mr. Perkins was able to climb into the helicopter on his own.

He was initially hospitalized in Nome, then Seattle.

Wes Perkins, 65, survived a bear attack in 2011 and is now helping survivors' families better navigate their way to recovery (Dannie Rose YouTube channel)

Wes Perkins, 65, survived a bear attack in 2011 and is now helping survivors’ families better navigate their way to recovery (Dannie Rose YouTube channel)

“I have been helping others all my life and never imagined that I would be a victim of things, but the Nome fraternity, my fire department brothers from Seattle, Anchorage, Nome, came out to support and raise funds for me and helped me through this recovery.” said Mr. Perkins Newsweek.

Mr Perkins said in the video that he is now helping the families of bear attack victims to better understand and guide the recovery process.

“What I [am] able to do is let them know that it takes stages,” Perkins says in the documentary about the survivor’s family who contacted him. “If he’s alive now, he’ll be fine. So to confirm that he will eventually have a reasonably normal life.”

Mr Perkins also said that while his own journey has not been easy, he is still seeing improvements and reaching milestones even ten years after the attack.

“I am [now] able to swallow a full-size vitamin that I couldn’t swallow five months ago, I would have choked,” he added. “People who don’t see me but know me say year after year, ‘Wow, you speak better’ … I was lucky to be able to learn to speak again.”

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