A man who had half his face torn off by a bear has spoken out about how he survived and recovered from the terrifying ordeal.
Wes Perkins, 65, was attacked by an eight-foot grizzly bear on May 16, 2011, while on a hunting trip with friends in the Alaskan mountains.
The former fire chief lost his tongue, jaw and almost all his teeth and had to clear mud and debris from his airways so he could breathe.
He spent four months in hospital, underwent multiple procedures and couldn’t speak for months afterwards.
Wes, from the Alaskan city of Nome, became addicted to painkillers after taking morphine and opioids while recovering, and could not eat or drink using his mouth.
Now fully recovered, Wes has told his story to Newsweek and documentary-maker Donnie Rosie.
He explained how his group was pursuing a ‘nice-sized’ bear in the snow and following its tracks until ‘the bear disappeared’.
Wes stopped ‘not realising the bear was only 70 feet away in a hole’ before the animal came running towards him in ‘full charge’.
He managed to get his gun partially off his back but the bear was too close too quickly and he ‘had no time to do anything’.
The dad went on: ‘I never lost consciousness. I had to open my airways because I had a bunch of mud here – my face was all tore up – lost my teeth, my tongue, my jaw. And so I just stayed focused.’
By the time Wes’s friend Dan Stang looked back at him, the bear was already on top of him.
Dan started shooting the animal but the bear spun around and started charging at him. This is when Dan’s son Ed began shooting at the bear as well, and eventually killed it.
‘I probably saved Wes’s life and my son saved my life from the whole ordeal,’ Dan said.
When he went to help Wes, ‘his whole face rolled right off’.
He used his radio to call for help but the group had to wait an hour before anyone got to them.
Wes used the snow to keep ‘what was left of his face’ numb but started feeling hypothermic.
He was eventually helped into the helicopter and then rushed to hospital where he had to have titanium plates inserted in both cheeks and a titanium rib put in around his jawbone.
He also had a fibula bone graft, where surgeons took bone from his lower left leg and made a jaw with it.
More than a decade later, Wes’s face is healed – although it is still scarred – and he tries to live his life to the fullest.
He said he is able to ‘do almost everything he used to’ but cannot swim or run because his ‘jaw bounces’.
His daughter Darcee said: ‘Not any person would have survived this or continue to today – I couldn’t have. His will to survive and keep going, stay positive.’
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