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Nick's story

Bear attacks are rare, but they do happen

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The importance of this is crucial.

If my son had died that night in such a violent way, I would always have believed he had died in fear and pain. But that would not have been the case. Shock is a wonderful and powerful gift the brain gives to the body, blocking out sensation, shutting down fear. But, of course, it can also be paralyzing. Long after the attack, when I tearfully asked Nick if he was very frightened at the time he said, no.

"I really didn't feel anything," Nick told me.

"I didn't know what was happening. I just tried really hard to go back to sleep. But Mike kept calling me over and over again and shouting - 'Nick just go! Just go Nick!' and so I rolled over and tried to crawl away."

Nick had just turned 11 years old the day before the attack and he weighed 84-pounds. If he had not rolled himself over from his back to his knees, he would never have had a chance of surviving the total of 26 puncture wounds this bear managed to inflict on him before Mike beat him off. Because Mike called him over and over again, it helped to keep Nick from going into shock, and because he gave him an order -go Nick - simple as that was, it created a sense in Nick to try to get away. And so, the wounds that rained down on his little body were not on his stomach but instead all over his thighs, and bottom and hips.

As Mike ran back carrying the paddle towards Nick and the bear he was thankful for the headlamp that he had automatically pulled onto his head as he was getting out of the tent. It meant both hands were free to wield the heavy paddle as a weapon as he approached the raging bear.

Bears have few weaknesses. They are very powerful and strong; they move extremely fast and often kill their victims with a quick swat to the head to break the neck. They can swim and they can climb trees. But in the darkness, their eyes are a bit weak and Mike was able to confuse and partially blind the bear with the headlamp as he rushed towards it landing a mighty blow on its head with the blade side of the paddle. The bear, at that point angry and confused, and likely in pain since the subsequent autopsy showed that the blow had broken blood vessels in its skull, reared up on his hind legs and dropped Nick's body, but not before inflicting a series of deep claw wounds.