Meredith Jaques home and healing after June 7 climbing rescue

June 15, 2011

After surviving a dramatic real-life ice-fall and avalanche around 6:45 a.m. June 7, Hood River native Meredith Jaques, 30, had to confront an avalanche of media following her rescue and later hospitalization at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital's trauma unit in Portland.

Jaques' mother, Deborah Whiting-Jaques, spoke with the Hood River News following a "media black-out" period, in which the Jaques clan tried to avoid any media contact.

"It was pretty negative with the helicopters and news trucks everywhere," said Whiting-Jaques. "Meredith just needed to be left to heal."

Luckily, the news the family has to share now is pretty good following Jaques nine-hour-long dramatic rescue near the summit of Mount Hood.

"I am so happy to report that Meredith is home and resting - although I cannot say 'comfortably.' She is beginning her recuperation. Despite a broken neck and back ... Meredith says she is 'fine.' She is an amazing, courageous, resilient woman," Whiting-Jaques wrote in an email. According to her mother, Jaques is already up and walking.

Jaques retained fractures to her spine in her neck (at C5) and three back fractures (at T4, T5 and T6), all of which have been assessed as stable by her neurosurgeon at Legacy Emmanuel, Dr. Kent Grewe. One thoracic fracture was a blast fracture and the others were compressions.

In addition, Jaques suffered a 10-inch laceration of her scalp, facial lacerations and contusions and abrasions across her entire body. She underwent two hours of plastic surgery after her arrival at Legacy to repair her scalp and her upper and lower lips.

Whiting-Jaques relayed the disturbing nature of having to look at the "gleaming white" of her daughter's skull after her arrival at the hospital and also the awe she felt at seeing how clean all of her wounds were, which may ultimately contribute to faster healing.

"It was because her wounds were caused by ice," said Whiting-Jaques, who also reported that Jaques was released Friday, June 10, in the late afternoon. She was sent home, bandaged and banged-up but without the expected body cast.

"Her neurosurgeon decided against a turtle-shell cast," said Whiting-Jaques; and Jaques now sports only a neck brace which she wears on a limited basis.

"Her surgeon wants her back and neck muscles and ligaments to stay strong and assist in her recovery. In a cast, they could atrophy. It's really important that she keep those muscles working to support her spine," said Whiting-Jaques.

Jaques must avoid twisting and lifting - keeping her spine on a flat plane to speed healing.

"She won't be doing any running, or mountain climbing or yoga anytime soon," said Whiting-Jaques with some relieved humor.

Reflecting on the whole emergency medical care experience, Whiting-Jaques said, "Meredith had expert care from the moment the 20-by-40-foot block of ice broke loose just below the summit … We had incredible, fantastic care."

In addition to the two hospitals involved, Jaques received stabilization and emergency treatment by the Hood River-based Crag Rats on her climbing team, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Department Reach and Treat team and Timberline Ski Patrol.

"Everyone … The people at Providence HRMH were so tender, so wonderful. The team at Legacy was incredibly fast. This was team care at its best."

Once rescued off the mountain, Jaques was initially transported to Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital and then later transferred to Legacy Emmanuel's Trauma, Recovery and Acute Care Unit for treatment once it was determined that her spine may have sustained fractures.

Jaques was admitted to Legacy's TRAC-Unit at about 3 a.m. Friday. By that time, more than 17 hours had elapsed since the accident; nearly 24 hours since Jaques left Hood River to travel to Mount Hood.

Jaques has requested that her family be her spokespersons at this time but allowed that us to share the following from her Facebook page:

"Despite a broken back, tons of staples and stitches and a broken neck, I feel lucky and happy to be alive. A huge thank you for all of the love and support. I was incredibly lucky to be climbing with an experienced group - who stayed with me for nearly 10 hours on the mountain."

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