Outdoorsman Braves Amputation to Ski, Hike Again

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By Joan Bennett

Early in the morning on February 12, 2003, Michael Lynn of Bartlett, New Hampshire, set out on a 14-mile day-trek on snowshoes and cross-country skis in New Hampshire's White Mountains with his dog, Kayla. An avid outdoorsman, Lynn, 55, hadn't bargained on having difficulty breathing a few hours later when he was deep in the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Wet from exertion in the deep snow and able to go no farther, at 4:30 PM he put on dry clothes and dug himself a hole in the snow to wait out the night in 30-degree-below-zero temperatures. Lynn was sure someone would come after him as he had left his itinerary at the inn where he worked, with a note that if he didn't return by 5 PM, he was in trouble. 

When the new front desk clerk arrived at 4 PM, she saw Lynn's note but didn't understand its significance. The next morning, as the clerk was throwing the note away, the inn's manager asked if she had seen Lynn. After reading the note and getting no answer at Lynn's house, the manager called the sheriff, who contacted the Fish and Game Department. A search began. 

Rescue!

By late afternoon on the second day, Lynn had given up hope of being found alive and wished his hypothermia would progress far enough to make him unaware of what was happening. About 9:30 that evening, Kayla barked, and Lynn saw a flash of light through the trees. Two Fish and Game officers had found him, but their radio wasn't working. Lynn's severe frostbite made him unable to walk, so the officers lit a fire, gave Lynn dry clothes, and fed him hot liquids while they waited out the night. 

At 8 AM on February 14, the officers got a crackly transmission through. A National Guard helicopter arrived a couple hours later and hovered above a clearing a quarter mile away as a seat was lowered to lift Lynn, who slowly reached the area after strapping snowshoes on his frozen feet. Low on fuel, the helicopter whisked Lynn to the closest hospital, refueling before it returned hours later for Kayla and the officers. 

Bilateral Amputation

Physicians were unable to save Lynn's right leg, which was amputated mid-calf three weeks after his rescue. Three months later in early June, he had a Symes amputation of his left leg above the ankle. 

Back to the Outdoors

Eight months after his mid-winter ordeal, Lynn was not only walking and hiking again with Kayla, but was making plans to ski and snowshoe. Wanting to return to his active lifestyle, he sought out Next Step Orthotics and Prosthetics, Manchester, New Hampshire, which specializes in fitting active amputees. With a different style Flex-Foot on each leg, Lynn has had his prostheses adjusted to fit his alpine and cross-country ski boots and the demands of skiing.

Eager to hit the trails and to get away, he reserved a condo for this past winter in Winter Park, Colorado, a resort where he taught skiing 12 years earlier. Winter Park is the headquarters of the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), and Lynn is looking forward to learning how to ski again with their guidance. And when he ventures into the woods again, he will be sure to leave behind his itinerary--since he knows this saved his life, along with the bravery of two very special Fish and Game officers.