Care Bears: the true story
March 23, 2005 2:54 AM   Subscribe

Come quick! I'm being eaten by a bear! In 1977, Cynthia Dusel-Bacon, a 31-year old geologist working for the US Geological Survey, lost both arms after an encounter with a hungry black bear during a field trip in Alaska. Not only she survived her ordeal, but she resumed her work as a USGS scientist. She can also tell you a few things about living a life without arms (she calls it "a multi-media approach"): how to chop carrots, undress, wash the dishes, read, and use a mouse.
posted by elgilito (23 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i couldn't comprehend having to adapt to an armless or legless life, let alone continuing my previous life. what a courageous human, and a great post.
posted by moonbird at 4:24 AM on March 23, 2005

posted by TungstenChef at 5:45 AM on March 23, 2005

All three summers I had hiked through the bush unarmed, as it was the belief of our project chief that guns added more danger to an encounter than they might prevent. A wounded, angry bear would probably be more dangerous than a frightened one. She had therefore strongly discouraged us from carrying any kind of firearm.

i remember reading in john krakauer's book "into the wild" how the main character, chris something, was warned repeatedly by alaska natives that helped him along his way that his .22 caliber rifle was useless in bear country and that he needed to arm himself with a large calibre hunting rifle when venturing out where the grizzly bears roam.

obviously the project chief was just as naive as chris mc..whateverhisnamewas.

pity that cynthia trusted that her boss did her homework and knew enough not send her people into dangerous situations and kudos to her for bouncing back.

some people are just awesome.
posted by three blind mice at 6:17 AM on March 23, 2005

That's badass. Although I'm not sure that I'd eat the carrots. Thanks, elgilito!
posted by LittleMissCranky at 6:18 AM on March 23, 2005

I can't believe how calm and rational she remained while a bear crunched down into her skull with its teeth. Great story.
posted by fire&wings at 6:25 AM on March 23, 2005

"All three summers I had hiked through the bush unarmed"

And every summer afterwards, too.

Seriously, this is an amazing story and an amazing woman.
posted by 1016 at 7:01 AM on March 23, 2005

I can't believe how calm and rational she remained while a bear crunched down into her skull with its teeth.

Yeah, that's what got to me. I like to flatter myself that I could retain a semblance of rationality if a bear was biting off my arm, but I won't even try to pretend that I could handle hearing my own skull crunch in a huge carnivore's mouth.
posted by mkhall at 7:13 AM on March 23, 2005

Another bear attack survivor. Warning: gruesome images
posted by dfowler at 7:36 AM on March 23, 2005

Wow. That's a fascinating, if horrifying story. Great post, elgilito!
posted by livii at 9:03 AM on March 23, 2005

Alright, fess up! How many people clicked on the "Undress" link first and were rewarded with an image of a knife whacking into a carrot?

(* Ahem * Uh... that is... or so I've been told would happen.)
posted by Mike D at 9:11 AM on March 23, 2005

I've hiked through the Alaskan bush unarmed plenty of times. It's not a particularly foolhardy thing to do, particularly when the alternative is carrying a high powered rifle and you have a team of reserachers spread out over a large area, not knowing each others whereabouts. If I do bring a gun into the field anywhere (and for work I'm sometimes required to) it's a 12 gauge for that very reason.
posted by fshgrl at 9:32 AM on March 23, 2005

She's quite remarkable in her optimism and determination! It's amazing what people can adjust to. Excell at, even.

The part of the attack story that really made me shudder was when the bear was licking the blood as it poured out of her arm. Gah.

Although I'm not sure that I'd eat the carrots.

Her feet are her hands, dude; I'm sure she washes them before cooking.

posted by Specklet at 9:44 AM on March 23, 2005

"All three summers I had hiked through the bush unarmed"

And every summer afterwards, too.

Oy! ::::making room in the handbasket::::

I admire her pluck, though; I don't know if I'd ever go back to work at a job that had cost me my arms.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:50 AM on March 23, 2005

Great, great story. I googled her name and found several more articles about her. Amazing woman.
posted by Doohickie at 1:06 PM on March 23, 2005

I admire while shuddering at the thought of having to emulate.
posted by orange swan at 6:31 PM on March 23, 2005

posted by airgirl at 6:37 PM on March 23, 2005

elgilito, great post. Between this and the marauding chimps post recently, we've had some seriously scary "when animals attack" stories here on mefi. Yikes, I am checking under my bed tonight to make sure there are no lions or tigers or bears.

There's footage of a camper who was stalked by a black bear that pops up on the Discovery channel now and again, it's quite frightening. He had a video camera and kept taping as he walked backwards. The bear was slow and deliberate and kept closing the distance. He managed to get back to his car, but it was close. Apparently, even though it is not the norm for black bears to eat people, humans look quite tasty to them when they are hungry enough.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:40 PM on March 23, 2005

I live in dread of nature. Even ants.

Tiny mandibles or gigantic furry claws, it's all out to get us.

There was a pine nut which got somehow kicked into my bathroom - adjacent the kitchen - and I watched in fascination as tiny ants gradually reduced the morsel down, over the course of two days, to nothing. To the wee ants, that pine nut was as large as a house. They dealt with it as would determined capenters envisioning a paycheck.

If that pine nut had been my helpless body.... well, more ants would have been needed.

No bears required. Only wee bugs.

Ants are much more thorough than bears, but even if they gnawed my body down - much farther than that marauding bear did in Ms. Dusel-Bacon's case - I imagine I'd still find a similar heroic courage with which to confront my new fate.

That's the human lot, so I hear. We make do and carry on.
posted by troutfishing at 9:31 PM on March 23, 2005

How does she "wipe herself".
I ask that seriously.
posted by EmoChild at 8:49 AM on March 24, 2005

I found myself wondering how she cuts and cleans her toenails. She must need help with quite a lot of mundane things.

We make do and carry on.

Profoundly true, troutfishing. We are endlessly adaptable. It's a concept you don't often see represented in Hollywood's movies, with their cast of perfect looking people. There are so many, many people living with and working around all manner of disabilities and physical limitations and their lives are often just as enjoyable and richly rewarding as anyone else's.
posted by orange swan at 9:21 AM on March 24, 2005

god, that was an intense story. I have to say it made me feel glad not to be an active carnivore, though of course I realize nature will go on being 'red in tooth & claw' whether I eat meat or not. But, wow. Reading it made me feel ill and I can only imagine the psychological torture my brain would impose on me if I'd lived through it & remembered those kinds of details. I sincerely hope her mind works differently or has discovered ways around that.
posted by mdn at 10:13 AM on March 24, 2005

mdn - the human brain is immensely adaptable.

Meanwhile - what are the functional implications of Jainism ?
posted by troutfishing at 11:14 PM on March 24, 2005

mdn - the human brain is immensely adaptable.

"the human brain" is an abstract concept. Individual human brains may be more and less adaptable to various experiences. One reason I'm a vegetarian is that the thought of eating animal flesh sometimes literally gives me a feeling of disgust. If I had smelled the meat of my own arm in the mouth of a beast, I am pretty sure it would viscerally affect me for some time. Yes, you find ways to move on & get over things, but that doesn't mean it's easy. All I was saying is that I hope it was easier for her than it would likely have been for me.

It's funny, I've offended people before for saying that I don't think rape would seriously traumatize me in the long term - it would suck, but imagining it doesn't hit me in the gut the way this does. So I think different people might just have different levels of sensitivity to different kinds of trauma.
posted by mdn at 11:55 AM on March 25, 2005

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