Saturday, April 01, 2023

Life on brink saved by a bark

by Margaret E. Davis
| December 18, 2022 12:00 AM

On this day last year, Bradley almost lost it.

He says that, after the incident, “I started researching: At 95 degrees, the body starts to take on hypothermia. At 86 to 88 degrees you lose unconsciousness. At 85 degrees, you’re in a coma, and at 82 you should be dead.

“When they brought me in, I was 78 degrees.”

I met Bradley at the end of last winter, when he had me fill out for him a raffle ticket for a drawing at the Montana Sportsman’s Expo. He explained that a couple of months earlier he had hurt his hands in a fall in Whitefish.

He seemed a little sheepish. “I was intoxicated,” he said with a wry smile.

At 12:30 a.m. a dog had alerted on him, lying in snow next to the river. I’d just read local author Susan Purvis’s “Go Find” and learned about dogs’ sensory abilities.

Months later, over coffee Bradley shows me the complete recovery of his hands, and tells the story.

“I live up in the mountains. I almost get stuck sometimes,” says Bradley, a McMannamy Draw resident too shy to give his last name but one who nevertheless sometimes craves social contact — as on Dec. 17 last year when he went for a weekend in Whitefish. In his early 40s, the former building materials salesman for a wholesale distributor was part of the way through his first Montana winter.

“I book a hotel for two nights because occasionally you just want human interaction,” he remembers. “Oddly enough, I picked the hotel across from the hospital.”

He did some barhopping and watched sports on TV at several Whitefish establishments until about 10 p.m. “Why call an Uber? I can make this,” Bradley says he told himself as he started “nonchalantly speed walking” back to his hotel.

Earlier, the temperature had reached 2 degrees.

“I remember walking by houses,” he says, “then things turned into a blank.”

“The nurse said they had to bring me back two times,” he says about his heart failures after the EMTs delivered him. “They told me that the only reason I was alive is a couple took their small dog for a walk. The dog kept stopping and barking.”

Judging from his three fractured ribs, he guesses he rolled down to the riverbank where he came to rest facedown in the snow.

“I did buy some gloves last week,” Bradley says when asked about the lessons learned. He also admits he wore the wrong shoes — he has proper gear now.

He nods approvingly toward Kalispell’s Main Street, saying, “I keep noticing whether cities maintain their sidewalks and streets.”

These days he focuses on health. At 6 foot 2, he’s added some weight but still, as the nurses did that night, he could be mistaken for a guy 20 years younger. “I cut way back on my drinking,” he says. “I’m into fitness now.”

Tomorrow may be just another Dec. 19 for the rest of us, but for Bradley it’s when he woke from a liminal world and got another go.

Margaret E. Davis, executive director of the Northwest Montana History Museum, can be reached at

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