Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Info on Leah Spurlin's fall...from myspace

II am attaching an article from Troy's Messenger here about Leah "Ketchup" Spurlin - and also on her myspace page...and will be updating her page over the next couple of weeks till she can do it herself.

Leah Spurlin victim of wilderness accident at Yellowstone

There is no place in the world that Leah Spurlin would rather be than Yellowstone National Park. That's where she feels that she belongs.

Even as she went into surgery Monday morning after suffering a 20-foot fall in the remote wilderness area northwest of Gardiner, Mont., she still said that's where she belongs.

This place has a real pull on Leah, her mother Olivia Spurlin said by telephone from Bozeman Deaconess Hospital in Bozeman, Mont. Monday afternoon.

We can't see into the future but I don't think she is going to want to leave.

Spurlin has worked at the park for two previous summers and is employed with the National Forestry Service this summer. She was conducting an aspen survey near Canary Point when she fell 20-plus feet from a ledge.

They work in teams and Leah's team had split up to work the area, Spurlin said. Leah and the young man, who was working with her had cliffed in,' meaning that they had gone as far as they could go and could either go back the way they came or go down.

The two civil service workers decided to go down and, evidently, realizing how treacherous the descent would be, had talked about what they would do if either of them fell, Spurlin said.

Leah fell from the ledge and landed on her feet first, then on her seat and her back. The young man got to her and they realized that she was seriously hurt and could not be moved.

Leah's teammate tried to radio their base headquarters but the reception wasn't good and the base operator could only pick up bits and pieces of what he was saying. However, another teammate, who was working the area, could pick him up and relayed the message.

The accident happened around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and it took hours before initial help could reach Leah, who was lying bleeding and in severe pain in the remote wilderness area.

An Air Idaho helicopter flew in but was unable to land because of the terrain but dropped off an EMT who made her way to Leah by crawling through the dense area.

A rescue team got to the area near dusk but they brought sleeping bags and food because the team was not certified to do night rescues.

As night fell the temperature dropped to near 30 degrees.

The EMT was able to give Leah something for pain and she said after the pain eased, she was all right to stay the night, her mother said. By that time, about 10 people were there with her. They all expected that she would not be taken out until morning but the man she works for made arrangements somehow for an Air Force helicopter to come for her and a doctor came with it.

A board was lowered from the helicopter and Leah was placed on it. She was then put in a basket and lifted into the helicopter as it hovered in the black night of the remote mountain country.

When they got to Bozeman, the helicopter was too large to land at the hospital and had to land at the airport, Spurlin said. From there, Leah was transported to the hospital by ambulance.

At 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 18, more than 11 hours after the accident happened, Leah Spurlin was finally in the hospital.

Leah wouldn't let anyone call us until she was in the hospital, Spurlin said. So, we didn't know about the accident until about 7 o'clock Sunday morning when the emergency room doctor called. We thought it was Leah calling to wish her dad, Gary, happy Father's Day.

The Spurlins flew to Bozeman and arrived there about 11 p.m. Central Time on Sunday.

She had already undergone surgery on both of her feet, Spurlin said. The injury to her right foot left an open wound and the doctors said they needed to do surgery as soon as possible to prevent infection. It was badly twisted. The left foot is fractured but the injury is not as bad as the right foot.

A second surgery was required on Monday for a back injury.

The Spurlins had been told that the surgery would take about four hours but it ran longer.

About 6 p.m. Center Time, Leah was out of surgery and doing well, her mother said.

She lost a lot of blood during surgery and had to have a transfusion but the doctors had told us that might happen, Spurlin said. The doctors fused a fractured vertebrae and said she might have some slight loss of mobility from that.

Leah will be hospitalized for about a week and then will need 24-hour care for about a week, followed by about five months of rehabilitation.

No matter what the time frame of her recovery, her mom said the accident has not and will not loosen the pull that Yellowstone has on her daughter.

It's a wilderness area and accidents happen all of the time, she said. Leah knows that and she still loves this place.

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