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University of Utah surgeons reattach man’s jaw following grizzly bear attack

Oct 13, 2023, 8:39 PM | Updated: 8:41 pm

SALT LAKE CITY —  Five weeks after a brutal grizzly attack tore off Rudy Noorlander’s lower jaw, the owner of Alpine Adventures is preparing to leave University of Utah Hospital and head home to Big Sky, Montana.

“His biggest high will be going home, he’s been racing people in the hallways,” Katelynn Davis, Noorlander’s daughter said.

With his two daughters and his University of Utah Health surgeon by his side, Noorlander used a wipe board to communicate with reporters Friday about his recovery and plans for the future. He also thanked the many people who have supported them since the attack.

“The kindness show by friends and strangers alike has been overwhelming,” Davis said while reading a statement prepared by her father. “I truly feel blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people. I also want to say that that first Root beer float is going to taste so amazing, and soon I am going to be a free-range chicken and won’t be hooked up to anything.”

Noorlander was attacked on September 8, 2023, by what he described as a “10-foot-mega bear” in Big Sky, Montana. At the time, he was helping a group of hunters locate an injured deer.

“He said he was actually glad it was him and not somebody else,” Davis said.

During that attack, the grizzly bear tore off Norlander’s lower jaw, bit his arms and legs, put a deep scratch on his chest, and collapsed his lung. He was flown to Utah after being stabilized and put on a ventilator in Bozeman, Montana.

“The first thing that was incredible was to watch was how enthusiastic he was to fight through it,” said Hilary McCrary, MD, MPH, Surgeon and Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, University of Utah Health.

When Noorlander arrived at University of Utah Hospital Dr. McCrary, a head and neck surgeon, took over his reconstructive care. On Friday, she described the three surgeries he’s undergone, including a complete jaw reconstruction that lasted 10 hours.

“We did a virtual surgical planning session which allowed us to create a custom plate which was used to reconstruct his jaw, and to also create, they’re called cutting guides, so we could customize a flap from his fibula bone,” said Dr. McCrary.

Norlander is now 15 days post-op from that major surgery and his jaw is healing.

“We are working on eating and maybe well have a root beer float in your room, we’ll see,” Dr. McCrary said.

When asked what has kept him motivated through the surgeries and recovery, Noorlander took to his wipe board and wrote about his family and love of life. He also joked about taking down the grizzly bear.

“He said my job proves that most people are good, and I can’t wait to get back to it, and I will win round two,” Davis said.

On Friday, Noorlander saw his two grandchildren, who live in California for the first time since the attack. His granddaughter described an emotional reunion.

“I started crying because I was so happy,” Abby Chance said as she stood next to her grandpa.

While there are still months of therapy and minor surgeries ahead, Noorlander is optimistic about making a full recovery. He said he is hopeful his journey will inspire others.

“Even if there seems to be no hope, keep on fighting,” Davis said as she read her father’s closing statement.

Davis said her father is expected to be released from the hospital on Monday, he plans to return to Big Sky, Montana where he plans to start snowmobiling and hunting again soon.

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University of Utah surgeons reattach man’s jaw following grizzly bear attack