Hunter mauled by grizzly bear gets advanced facial reconstructive surgery

Lee Brooke speaks to a gathering of friends and supporters in Pennsyvlania. Brooke was attacked and mauled by a grizzly bear last year and is undergoing extensive facial reconstruction surgery. (Photo: Fox 31, KDVR)

Lee Brooke, 60, was hunting in the mountains of Wyoming when a 420-pound bear attacked him.

The bear mutilated him, tearing off most of his face and knocking him unconscious. He awoke some moments later, the bear smelling him. “I could feel the whiskers,” he told Fox 31.

He attacked the bear with a steak knife he had in his pocket. The bear bit him in the arm, and the two struggled before the bear ultimately wandered off. This gave Brooke the chance to escape. He was found by his brother George, and the two went down the mountain for help.

Brooke was rushed by helicopter to the Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo., and spent five months in intensive care. He was put into a medically induced coma and endured hours of reconstructive surgery, one session lasting a full 24 hours, that saved his life and reconstructed his face.

The attack happened in October of 2016, and after months of treatment in Colorado, Brooke returned home to Pennsylvania. Friends and neighbors have rallied to help him pay for his mounting medical bills. “I don’t know how to say thank you,” he told the crowd at a benefit event.

Recalling the attack, Brooke says he rightfully should be dead. “I should’ve least drowned on my blood,” he told the crowd.

Brooke is the only Maytag repairman in Westfield, Penns., where he’s well known and well liked. He’s unable to work but says he isn’t afraid to go hunting again.

He’ll return to the Swedish Medical Center just after Christmas to undergo more reconstructive surgery. His doctors say this upcoming round will take place over the next year.

The techniques used to save Brooke’s face are among the most advanced of their kind. Surgeons took skin from his leg in the initial procedures on his face and plan to rebuild his nose, using cartilage from his ribs and ears.

Brooke’s original nose was preserved by attaching it to his arm. His radial artery feeds blood to it, keeping it alive. Brooke looks forward to the next round of surgeries, “Then I’ll be a new Lee,” he told Fox 31.

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