EMERGENCY ROOM PHYISIAN MAKES HOUSE CALL ON A CLIFF 6000FT. UP
I remember lying on that ledge wondering who would come to help and how they would get me out of there..."
As a small business owner and family man, Gerry Mercer loves that he can call Lincoln County his home. An avid outdoorsman and hunter, Gerry also owns a taxidermy shop right here in Libby. Not only his hobby, but also his livelihood revolves around the outdoors and those who enjoy spending time in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness.
In September of 2003, Gerry and his son, George, who was 16 years old at the time, were out for a father/son hunting trip in the cabinet wilderness area. The two of them hiked the Leigh Lake Trail Head early in the morning, and then proceeded to climb a 2000ft. cliff to the top of Bachman Mountain where they would spend the day hunting. Just before dark, luck was on their side and their hunt was successful. Gerry and George quickly prepared the animal for transport home. As they were heading back to the trail, Gerry, who was carrying an extra 80 pounds of game in his pack, took a 3ft. step down onto a rock. The extra weight, combined with the way he was forced to rotate during the step caused his leg to fracture from his ankle to his knee. He was in so much pain that he could not walk and he could not crawl. The only option was for George to head down the mountain alone, and get help for his Dad.
Dr. Jay Maloney, Emergency Room Physician at St. Johns Lutheran Hospital and medical volunteer with David Thompson Search & Rescue (DTSAR) had just returned home from a hunting trip of his own and finished up dinner with his family when the call came in. The DTSAR mountain rescue team, including Dr. Maloney, began their search for Gerry immediately. The first course of action was to fly up to the peak and see if they could land anywhere near him. The team could see his flashlight from the chopper, but quickly found that there was no place for them to land.
Instead of calling it a night and heading home to sleep in their own beds, Dr. Maloney, a single DTSAR Paramedic, and George hiked two miles through the steep, treacherous terrain, before they even got to the cliff. Then, the three of them put on head lamps, grabbed as much rescue gear as they could and started the 2000ft. climb up to Bachman Peak in the dark. There they found Gerry, who was in critical condition and going in to shock.
I remember while I was laying on that ledge in the dark, wondering who would come to help, and how they would get me out of there. It was nerve racking to say the least, stated Gerry. Words cant describe the feeling of relief I had when hours later my son, followed by Dr. Jay Maloney crawled up to me in the dark.
Knowing they would have to wait until dawn to complete the rescue, Dr. Maloney started a fire and spent the entire night treating Gerry for shock and administering medications to control the pain, measures that inevitably saved Gerrys life. He even took the time to keep my son occupied with the process so that George wouldnt worry too much about me, added Gerry.
At dawn, after a sleepless night on a freezing, mountainous ledge, Dr Maloney prepared Gerry for a helicopter rescue. ALERT arrived and lowered a paramedic on the end of a rope to help secure Gerry for transport; they picked him up in a basket and set the team down at Leigh Lake where Gerry was put inside the chopper and flown to Kalispell. In the meantime, Dr. Maloney and the overnight rescue team were left to hike back down the mountain.
Jay [Dr. Maloney] wasnt even on the clock, but he came equipped with his little black bag, commented Gerry. You would have to see how rugged this country is to fully appreciate the effort. I ended up with a full recovery, and Jay even checked in on me at my home from time to time. Libby Montana is extremely lucky to have him.