Rebuilding a life after a bear attack
In November 2016, our volunteer surgical team visiting Bhutan met Tashi, who had survived a recent bear attack. Nurse Helen Fuss spent time with Tashi, and shares his story.
“Tashi, 61, is married with an adult daughter and son. He lives one day away from Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.
“His face was deformed but all the parts could be identified. I looked at his face and wondered what he looked like before his injury. Although I found it upsetting I wanted to know more about Tashi, how it happened and how he got help.
“Tashi experienced a terrifying incident with a Himalayan black bear on an October morning while he was walking home.
“He said the attack happened suddenly, with the bear attacking his face with its claws. Tashi tried to fight the bear by punching it in the face but instead the bear bit his arm. The bear then also attacked his chest, then left.
“While Tashi was telling me the story of how it happened I could see the worried look on the faces of his wife and adult children.
“After the attack Tashi had to walk one kilometre to the closest health clinic. Even though his eyes, nose, left ear and mouth were not visible, clinic staff cleaned and bandaged his wounds, and he was airlifted to the hospital in Thimpu. Somehow he had not lost his sight in either eye.
“When he arrived at the hospital his wounds were attended to as best possible, with some initial surgery.
“By the time the Interplast team arrived on 12 November, Tashi’s bite wounds, chest and right ear wound had healed, but he still needed major surgery, particularly for his lower jaw, which was broken in two with a piece missing.
“Volunteer plastic surgeon Dr Mark Moore repaired Tashi’s lower jaw using a plate and bone grafts, and also grafted his right lower eyelid, as Tashi could not close his eye, which was causing his eye to become irritated.
“Eventually he will have a strong jaw and an eye that can close, reducing irritation.
“Although Tashi has a long way to go before he is discharged, this surgery is another closer step to recovery and closer to being able to go home. His family have been by his side every moment.”