As Stephen Price stood alone filming the sunrise along Yellowstone National Park’s Beaver Ponds Trail the morning of May 28, 2021, he reflected on what had been a perfect trip. Everything had gone according to plan. All goals met. He would finish the four-mile loop trail, drive back to Bozeman, and fly home that afternoon. Five minutes later, as he rounded a bend, a grizzly bear stood upright from thick brush around 35 yards away, and then a second, which immediately huffed and charged. He took one step backward, tripped over a bush, and fell face-down to the ground. By the time he reached up to cover his neck, the bear had already clawed his right flank open through three layers of clothing and was beginning to maul his right thigh. A brief pause afforded a glimmer of hope that it was over, but before the thought had fully formed, a much deeper bite to his thigh elicited a guttural moan of pain, and then of terror as the bear thrashed him hard enough to send his phone flying out of his pants pocket, landing approximately six feet away.
“At that point, I felt sure I was going to die,” said Stephen. “I prayed, thought of my mother, and waited to feel teeth through my hands and spine. But then, with another huff, the bear left.”
Alone again, Stephen belly-crawled to his phone, half-stood in fear of being seen and attacked again and began hobbling back in the direction he had come. He reached 911 with one bar of cell service after a quarter mile. After continuing on for 1.5 miles, he met up with the ambulance.
Despite its small size, the care Stephen received at an area hospital could not have been better. Bear-inflicted wounds, he learned, were not exceptionally rare in this emergency room, and the attending surgeon was well-practiced in this particular type of trauma. In the operating room (OR), a total of four lacerations to his right flank, and 13 puncture wounds to his right thigh and buttock were treated. By noon, Stephen was out of surgery and admitted to the hospital. The following morning, he was relieved to learn from the surgeon that the remaining muscle tissue, though badly bruised, was still viable and would not require additional surgeries as he had expected. Still, the issues of getting home, and of healing such a large wound, remained.
“My thoughts turned to Parkland Health Center’s outstanding Wound Care Center team,” Stephen said. Years prior, in his role as caretaker for a man with significant developmental and cognitive disabilities, the need for healing of a knee wound took them to a large clinic in St. Louis. “For well over a year, we made the long and taxing drive back and forth, but with little progress to show,” recalled Stephen. “Sensing my frustration, the provider suggested we consider Parkland’s Wound Care Center as it would be closer to home. Initially skeptical of comparable service in a comparatively smaller setting, I would soon learn how wrong I was.” The clinic’s lead Nurse Practitioner, Mindy Carlyon
, immediately changed protocol, and within a month the longstanding wound was healed and remains so to this day.
On Memorial Day 2021, Stephen flew home, and the very next day, Parkland’s Wound Care Center made time to see him. “My relief was immense to know I had access to expert care only 15 minutes from home,” said Stephen. The team began seeing him twice weekly and worked diligently the other days to negotiate coverage of treatments with his insurance. By June 15, he was equipped with a wound vacuum to help improve blood flow to the area, control drainage, and promote new growth of healthy tissue. The wound vacuum became part of his life 24/7 for the next seven weeks. The team also used collagen sheets, which promote tissue strength and elasticity to help heal the wound. After 16 weeks of steady progress, the wound margins had finally closed. A year later, only a scar and the memory remain.
“Without such specialized care, I realize how even today I might still be dealing with complicated wound closure, like the young man I previously worked for,” Stephen said. “My gratitude to Parkland’s Wound Care Center team cannot be overstated. Truly, this department fully delivers on its mission of providing expert care with great compassion and understanding. I have recommended them dozens of times since first experiencing their outstanding service, and now happily add my own personal account of healing to their well-deserved stellar reputation.”
For more information about Parkland’s Wound Care Center, click here
Stephen Price (center) reconnects with members of his care team at Parkland’s Wound Care Center, including Dustin Wyatt, RN and Mindy Carlyon, FNP.