Four days trapped in bush
Paramedic survives on melted snow, rotten meat and sheer determination
By BRYAN PASSIFIUME, SUN MEDIA
CROWSNEST PASS -- Used to saving the lives of others, a Crowsnest Pass paramedic had to keep himself alive for a harrowing 96 hours after his ATV rolled on him.
Ken Hildebrand was riding his quad last weekend north of the Livingstone Gap, about 130 km southwest of Calgary, collecting animal traps when his vehicle struck a rock and ended up on top of him.
Hildebrand, who has a weak leg due to polio, ended up face down on the snowy ground with his machine pinning his strong leg.
"He was stuck there for four days and three nights -- almost 96 hours straight," says Troy Linderman, director of Crowsnest Pass EMS.
Hildebrand sustained himself by melting snow to drink and by eating the rotting meat of animals he had previously collected, which made him sick.
Hildebrand faced constant harassment from coyotes and wolves. He was able to keep them away by constantly blowing a whistle he had with him.
Through the ordeal, he made several attempts to get out from under the quad, including using an axe to pry it off, but he didn't have enough leverage to move it off of his leg.
"He had told some people where he was going, so people knew he was overdue," Linderman said. "Several people looked for him, but they couldn't find him."
As Hildebrand was entering his fourth day of confinement on Jan. 16, he began to accept the fact he might not be found before the cold, malnourishment or animals claimed him. His saving grace came in the form of two hikers from Pincher Creek, who happened to come across the accident scene.
After spending a night in Crowsnest Pass hospital, he was transferred to Lethbridge, where he has undergone several operations to treat frostbite and injuries to his legs sustained in the accident and the ensuing four days.
"It's amazing that he's alive, I can't believe it," Linderman said. "Ken's as tough as nails."
Despite hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration and leg injuries, Linderman said Hildebrand's only concern after being rescued was not being able to make his next shift.
While Hildebrand's injuries aren't described as life-threatening, there is a chance the trapped leg might have to be amputated.