Jake Speed

still smiling

Above...a photo taken of Jake just after his rescue, before he was medevaced out of Summit Camp. More details of the story follow below...

While working at Summit at the end of the 2008-09 northern winter, he went out on a snowmobile on Wednesday evening (15 April 2009 Greenland time, UTC-3) (all dates/times on these pages are local) to check the runway conditions. A sudden whiteout came up, the snowmobile ran out of fuel 3 miles from the station...and he wasn't carrying a radio. He was reported missing on Thursday morning, and various search teams (station personnel, NSF and Greenland government folks based in Kangerlussuaq, the Royal Danish Air Force, and chartered Air Greenland aircraft. He survived in the -40F/C temps by digging a snow cave and moving his body to keep blood circulating. about. Early on Saturday when he heard a search team nearby, he walked up to their vehicle and calmly asked for a ride back to the station.

Although he managed to walk out on his own two feet, there was extensive nerve damage. Jake was transported to Nuuk, Greenland for preliminary examination. He was then flown to the UC Davis hospital burn unit in Sacramento for extensive evaluation and treatment. After multiple surgeries and failed attempts to partially save his original feet, he underwent full amputation of his right hand and both feet, as well as an abdominal flap procedure to save full use of the left hand.

Here are some pictures from the rehab process, when he was taking his first steps:

size 14?
The end of July, here's our hero getting ready to take his first steps!
star
And here he is, up to his full 6'-4" height!
stepping out
Here he is a few steps later...
walkabout
...and venturing into the lobby!
look ma
Look ma, no hands!



the bionic Polie
Above, here he is back in mid June with one of his new bionic attachments. Like a Swiss Army knife...lots
of tools. After getting out of the hospital he has been staying near his California home and getting acquain-
ted with the new toys. All of the above photos are courtesy of Kathy Blumm.

Jake was interviewed in early August 2009 by the folks from the TVNZ program "Closeup." This is a "60 Minutes" style news show, and I was consulted by one of the producers. The interview aired 10 August and the archive is available from the program web site (note that the video player worked for me but hasn't worked for everyone in the Northern Hemisphere...if you have trouble, the alternate player, either Flash or Windows Media Player, from the video screen. Or try another computer.)

And on 15 August he went surfing! This was courtesy of the AMPSURF organization, which sponsors such activities for amputees. And a bit later he visited the Denver office.

Continue on to the next page of the story.