LEWISTON, Maine — Five months ago to the day on Christmas Eve, Matt Dyer woke to the shadow of a bear falling on his tent.
The polar bear pulled him out by the neck and ran toward the water — and almost certain death for Dyer.
“I guess I was just lucky, and lucky in many ways,” Dyer said. “The only permanent injury I have is I have no feeling in my chin. But that’s not a big deal.”
It was a scary end to a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Canada’s Torngat Mountain range, an extremely remote and wild national park on Newfoundland’s coast.
Dyer was saved when one of his camp mates fired a flare, startling the bear into dropping Dyer. It ran off and Dyer’s friends carried him back to camp.
They tended his wounds and waited for a rescue helicopter, which took him first to a trauma clinic and later to Montreal General Hospital.
He returned to his Turner home in August. Dyer suffered severe injuries to his back and head, a collapsed lung, broken bones and bites to his hands and arms.
He’s mostly recovered now, but he faces nerve surgery in the next few months that could restore his vocal cords. He still talks in a rough, raspy whisper.
“People call me and say, ‘Who is this?’” he said. “And it’s tiring. You have to force so much air up, you really have to work to talk.”
He returned to work part time at Pine Tree Legal’s Lewiston office in September.
“It’s so much better to be here, working and doing something instead of sitting at home or in a hospital bed,” he said. “After everything, it’s like I died and went to heaven, to be able to come back.”
He said he also has been blessed by seeing the reaction to what happened to him.
“You take it for granted how good people are,” Dyer said. “For all the bad things that happen, I think people in their hearts are very genuinely caring. This showed that to me, and I’m going to change the way I do things, too.”
As for adventure, he’s still game. He’s planned camping expeditions around Maine when the weather allows and plans to reunite with friends from the Torngat expedition this summer in California’s Yosemite Valley.
“There are no polar bears there — just grizzlies, and I can handle that,” he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services