The Indy received some staggering news this week when longtime staff photographer Chad Harder suffered a severe injury outside Butte. During a routine scramble heading toward Spire Rock, Chad grabbed for a boulder that quickly came loose from the ground. The rock tumbled down, crushed Chad’s right arm and nearly severed his hand completely at the wrist. Emergency personnel transported Chad to St. James Hospital in Butte before determining that he needed to be medevaced to Salt Lake City for immediate surgery.
As of this afternoon, Chad's been through two extensive operations, the second of which successfully reattached his tendons and fused the bones in his wrist. With proper healing and physical therapy, doctors expect him to regain some functionality in the hand. Considering Chad almost lost his life, that’s incredibly welcome news.
While our thoughts and prayers are directed toward Salt Lake, we also want to take a moment to thank everyone involved in ensuring the best possible outcome from a harrowing situation. It starts with Chad’s fellow climbers, which included his partner, Kara McMahon, a nursing student at the College of Technology. Kara fashioned a splint to stabilize Chad’s hand and wrist, and exhibited extreme grace under pressure. Indy reporter Jesse Froehling helped stop the bleeding. Former Indy reporter John S. Adams sprinted down the trail to direct emergency personnel to the scene.
Maneuvering Chad down the hill and to the ambulance took considerable effort, and a group of off-roaders riding in the area selflessly offered up their 4-wheelers to help. Say what you will about ATVers—and word has it our crew wasn’t shy about bemoaning their considerable presence in the area before the accident—but they played an integral part in the rescue. Even after Chad was successfully loaded up in the ambulance, one man insisted that John and Jesse use his ATV to get off the hill. “Just take it,” he said. “You’re in a hurry. I’m not.”
Needless to say, the EMTs, hospital staff and surgeons in both Butte and Salt Lake have also performed admirably. We’ve spoken with Chad numerous times and, aside from beaming his typically positive attitude, he’s reiterated time and again how impressed he is with his care.
The outpouring of support from friends back home also humbles him. Word travels fast in Missoula, and within 48 hours Chad and Kara heard, “If there’s anything we can do, please let me know,” countless times. Those friends deserve thanks, as well.
Doctors have scheduled a third surgery later this week. It’s too early to know when exactly Chad will return to Missoula, what shape his hand will be in when he gets here (note: he’s a lefty, so his trigger finger isn’t affected), or how soon his images will start appearing in our pages again. In the meantime, we’ll continue to support Chad and Kara however we can, and be thankful for the good people who helped our award-winning shooter and friend.