Tough jobs. Reality television attempted to show the daily hazards loggers face and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of fatal injury in logging is more than 30 times that of the average profession. Needless to say, this industry isn’t for everyone. “I always knew I was a tough guy, but this was the acid test,” recalled Jack Hubbard. This past April, Jack went to work in the woods just as he had every day for as long as he could remember. He will jokingly tell you he was, “Born to kill trees.” This day, however, would test his will and change his life forever.
Hubbard was working halfway between Grand Marais and Seney cutting all the big wood too large for the processor. With three feet of snow on the ground, it wasn’t easy to get around, but it wasn’t anything he hadn’t experienced before. Having fallen timber from here to the Pacific Ocean, Jack wasn’t a novice in the woods. After inspecting the area and mapping out a strategy, he began to cut. Everything was going as planned, but Jack decided to move a little further out and turned his back for a second. In that instant, a balsam broke off, hit him across the back, and drilled him into the snow. Jack tried to stand up thinking the wind was knocked out of him. After several attempts, he realized he was unable to stand and knew it was serious. Calling for help wasn’t an option. It only came out as a whisper.
Realizing he couldn’t panic, but almost passing out from the pain, Hubbard rubbed snow on his face to keep him awake. “I thought I was going to die,” he recalls. After looking around, he saw tree limbs blocking him but heard the familiar sound of his chainsaw. The chainsaw lay nearby sticking out of the snow. He used what energy he had to dig it out and began blocking the tree and creating an opening. Not knowing whether he would make it out alive, he set the saw up so those looking for him could easily find him.
“I just kept thinking how heartbroken my daughter would be and I wanted my boys to know I tried as hard as I could,” Hubbard said as tears came to his eyes. A will to live drove him to begin crawling. He set up milestones, slowly dragging himself to each one, stopping to catch his breath and rubbing snow in his face. Then, like a sign from above, he noticed a large stick in the trail. He used the stick as a staph to get to his feet and move quicker. After more than 40 minutes, he finally made it to where the rest of the crew was having lunch. Fortunately, this meant that all the machines were shut down and it was quiet. With everything he had, he leaned against a bank and called for help. His co-workers rushed to his side and immediately got him into a truck.
Anyone who lives in the Upper Peninsula can tell you that cell phone service is spotty and non-existant in many areas. Without an option to call for an ambulance, Jack’s co-workers and friends, Rob Farmer and Will Arneth, took off with him to the hospital. Once they reached an area with cell phone reception, Rob told Jack he was going to stop and call an ambulance. Jack knew he had already been out in the woods a while and didn’t want to take the risk of taking more time. Instead, they called the Emergency Department at Helen Newberry Joy Hospital to let them know they were on the way. HNJH staff then notified Michigan State Police of the emergency situation to ensure they weren’t stopped on the way in.
Knowing Jack was in rough shape, the HNJH trauma team took action and activated a level 1 trauma. This meant contacting UP Health System Marquette to have them on the ready. The trauma team was waiting on the sidewalk when Rob and Jack pulled up and immediately began assessing him. A chest tube was inserted to treat a collapsed lung and a CT scan discovered broken ribs and a fractured back. Sarah Johnson, Emergency Department Director at Helen Newberry Joy Hospital, said, “By calling ahead, we were able to plan and have the right resources available. We also stabilized him enough that no air flight was necessary.”
Once at UP Health System Marquette, a team of surgeons performed an 8-hour spinal surgery. In all, two titanium rods and twelve screws remain in his back. In recovery, he realized the severity of the situation when the doctors asked him to squeeze his hand and move his feet. He was told just how close he was to being paralyzed and was even nicknamed “Miracle Man.” But what was the main question he wanted answered? “When I shoot a buck this fall, will I be able to pull it out myself?”
While Hubbard uses a positive attitude and jokes to get him through this ordeal, he realizes just how lucky he truly is, “I’ve had two of the best doctors in Vix and LaHaye work on me and I’m not paralyzed or dead. I’m thankful for that every day.” Not many men would have survived an ordeal like Jack Hubbard and go home three days after a spinal operation, but then again, not many men have gotten in a fight with a bear and lived to tell about it. Jack’s two-for-two.