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Nick's story

Bear attacks are rare, but they do happen


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And so the situation was this - a huge black bear was on his hind legs huffing and angry, a little boy lay on the ground at its feet, and Mike - all 5-foot 8-inches of him - stood on the other side of my little boy.

Mike had a decision to make and what he decided was to attack.

Once more he was able to land a blow to the head, which snapped the edge of the paddle, but it was enough to force the animal to abandon Nick and climb the tree beside him - shaking it and raging and huffing the whole time. As Michelle, who had evacuated the other seven terrified boys into the canoes came rushing up to drag Nick down to the boats, Mike stayed under the tree with the headlamp in the eyes of the bear until Nick was in the canoe, and then Mike backed away and the shocked and frightened group of campers paddled out into the dark lake, leaving an enraged predator who, in the words of Algonquin Park's Chief Biologist Dan Strickland, "came down from the tree and laid waste to the campsite," shredding everything in its fury.

The campsite they were leaving, on Lake Opeongo, was easily four hours by canoe from anywhere that they could call for help. So they made for another nearby campsite where luckily someone knew how they could access a motorboat. After waking up the powerboat owner and explaining what had happened Michelle and Nick set off in the motorboat to get to the next urgently required level of care, which was the hospital at Barry's Bay just outside the provincial park.

And this is where another thing went right for Nick, in the person of a young doctor from Toronto - Dr. Bernard Dew, who immediately assessed the situation and began the major work required to stop the spread of infection that was now coursing through Nick's wounds.

He knew Nick would need many hours of surgery at a major hospital, and also many months of nursing care and re-hab if he survived the surgery and infection, and so even as he worked on Nick he was setting up the next stage with St. Justine's Children's Hospital in Montreal. We later learned that there had been jurisdictional problems getting Nick out of the region: there was only one ambulance in the Barry's Bay area and it had to get all the way to Ottawa to make the crucial transfer to a Quebec ambulance. At some point during this time when I could actually speak to Dr. Dew, I said: "Shouldn't Nick get to a hospital in Ottawa - the closest place?"