Today, I am writing in hopes of helping one of my online friends. There are so many people out there who have helped me on my journey, so that when I read his story; I couldn’t help but get involved.
I know this is not the usual kind of story you find on my site, but I hope you will read it through to the end. Its a great story about the heroic spirit of a man and his guide dog and the woman he loves. And if after reading you decide you would like to help with a donation, then please go to http://www.markburninghawk.net/music.html This is Mark’s music site, but he assures me that all donations will go to his girlfriend’s care.
Last Saturday afternoon, taking advantage of the beautiful weather before the rainy winter arrived, Amy and I decided to go for a short hike. We drove to the Damnation Creek trail head on HWY 101, near Klamath, CA, and intended to be back at our car within a couple of hours, as it was already late afternoon, and would get dark soon. Ezra was guiding me as usual, and Luke was shepherding us all as usual, and we were both enjoying the rugged landscape and giant redwood trees. Softly scented air was dappled with sun and shade as the trail first descended, then wound up to a narrow wooden bridge, at a fork with the Coastal Loop trail. We decided to venture a ways down that trail, hoping it would “loop,” back to the footbridge. No such luck. At first, the trail, mostly composed of an old highway and well maintained, was great for hiking, so we continued. By the time it got narrow and steep again, and Amy could see the ocean through the trees ahead, we needed to turn back; it was getting dark. We tiredly turned and made our way back down the trail, until we were mostly back to the footbridge.
We stopped to catch our breaths and let the dogs pee, and somehow, Amy fell. I heard her fall, cry out, then a crash, then nothing. I called out, “AMY! Amy, can you answer me?” I heard nothing for a few minutes. When I heard a sound, I didn’t think it was a human making it. It was Amy screaming. I had to get down the cliff she had fallen over, to ascertain her condition. I somewhat climbed, mostly fell down to where she was. She had landed badly, on her back, on the rocks at the bottom of an old creek bed. Luke was with her, and Ezra followed me down. Her screams of pain were constant, long and loud. She kept saying, “NO! NO! NO!” over and over, and told me, “I can’t feel my legs!” I sat for a while, held her hand, listened to her scream. I knew I had to somehow get help. I had my iPhone 5 with me, but when I checked, I had no service. There was no way I could move Amy; she was far too badly injured to climb up the cliff. I had to climb up the cliff, helping Ezra up with me, and find a place where I had enough cell service to call 911 and get a rescue team in to get Amy. So, as she screamed, I tucked my maroon sweatshirt carefully under her head, and said, “Baby, I love you; I will be back with help, I have to go get help.” She just kept on screaming.
I found a chimney up the cliff, hauled Ezra up and got back to the trail, which was fortunately very well-defined. I still had no service. I had no choice but to walk with Ezra guiding me down the trail until I could call 911. Fortunately, Ezra was able to follow the trail, even in the dark. Luke also had come up with us, and stuck close to us. We walked about a quarter mile until I got one bar of cell coverage. With that one bar, having to call back ten or twelve times, I got 911 to contact the sheriff, who sent in the volunteer search and rescue team to find us. There was some consternation when I told the sheriff that I couldn’t give visual landmarks. I explained that I was blind, had been hiking with my sighted girlfriend, and she had fallen. I gave them the names of the trails, but, No, I did not think I could get back to my vehicle, and no I couldn’t describe where I was. I told them about the bridge at the trail fork. Then my iPhone battery got dangerously low. They had my GPS coordinates by that time, so I settled down to wait, calling out from time to time, in case they could hear me. That didn’t stop the SAR people from hitting the trail, so I was told. I was growing cold now, shivering in just sweats and a T-shirt. I had given Amy my sweatshirt.
Just Imagine being blind facing this emergency
I walked with Luke and Ezra back to the footbridge. The creek under it whispered, defining the silence of the woods at night. Luke alternately huddled against me and padded back and forth over the bridge. Ezra sat close, being calm and patient. I had done all I could do. I began intermittently shouting, “HELLO! HELLO!”
Finally, about four hours later, my voice hoarse from dehydrating, shivering from cold, I heard a very faint, “HELLO! Are you Mark!?” Oh yes, I was Mark all right. A few minutes later, a woman named Renelle ran up to me on the bridge, followed by her partner Mel. Luke led them to where Amy had fallen, and they found her. I got under a space blanket and drank water. It wasn’t over. Amy couldn’t move, and they had to get more people with a back board and stretcher to get her up the cliff, and then we all had about three miles of hiking out to do. Luke stayed with Amy and the rest of the team, while Mel, Ezra and I started the long hike back to the highway.
As we hiked along–by now it was about three thirty in the morning, pitch dark save for Mel’s flashlight–he soon discovered that Ezra and I could navigate our way ahead better than he could try and guide me. As we walked, we talked about Ezra, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the school that trained him, about dogs in general. Mostly he was just trying to take my mind off what had just happened.
The Real Heroes
I realized that Ezra and Luke were the real heroes of this night. Tired and limping, Ezra nevertheless led me where I needed to go, avoiding obstacles in the dark and finding sure footing. Luke led the rescue team to Amy, and kept me safe while I waited for them. I have not yet stop sending my gratitude to Dog for walking with me, for saving our lives. The last 0.7 miles was all up-hill, switchbacks and rock steps. As beat-up and tired as I was, I cannot imagine what it was like for Amy to be stretcher-borne out of there. I saw her briefly at the ambulance; she was in shock, but she said, “Thank you, you did the best thing you could…”
I got a ride home from a park ranger. I had Amy’s car towed home. By then it was 4:45 in the morning. I put the dogs to bed and just sat there for the next hour giving my thanks. Luke came home with me and is subdued, confused and sad. Amy was taken to Sutter General Hospital in Crescent City. There, she was determined to have a broken thoracic spine, three broken ribs and a collapsed lung. As of now, she is either en route to or in surgery at OHS in Portland. No one will tell me anything. The dogs and I are still recovering. I’m sore all over, Ezra is sore and tired and Luke is being perfectly behaved for me while he waits for Amy to return.
It’s far from over, but this is an update. I am anxiously waiting for news of Amy. I frankly have no idea what comes next.
I hope that some of you will be able to help my friend Mark. If you can donate, that would be great. But at this point your prayers and good wishes would be just as welcome. He is obviously scared and frustrated not knowing what is happening. You can follow his story on his face book page.
If you appreciate his story and my efforts to help spread the word about his situation, then please share this post with your friends, family, and coworkers. When you share it on social media be sure to encourage anyone who sees it to repost it. I don’t do things like this often or lightly. I look forward to your comments.
Again I am just trying to help a friend. So, I want to thank you in advance. Take care, Max