FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks adventurer Andy Sterns is awake and alert after spending more than a week in a coma after a fall in which he broke both legs while climbing a mountain north of Nome.
Sterns still is unable to talk, but friend Ann Farris said Sterns is smiling and moving his head and arms. He woke up Sunday and by Monday was turning his head to look at people coming in his room, Farris said. He also can point out letters on a piece of paper, she said.
“He’s interacting; he’s aware of what’s going on,” Farris said. “It’s real encouraging.”
On Monday, Sterns was moved out of the intensive care unit at Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage, where he has been held since being admitted April 20.
Sterns, 46, had been unconscious since undergoing surgery on the same day, and doctors suspect he’s suffering from fat-embolism syndrome, which caused swelling in his brain, as a result of his broken legs.
Sterns broke both legs in a 60-foot fall April 19 while climbing Mount Osborn, a 4,714-foot mountain about 40 miles north of Nome. He was rescued by helicopter the next day after climbing partner Ian McRae, of Nome, spent several hours lowering him down the mountain to their camp on a glacier at the base of the mountain.
The two climbers were roped together about halfway up the mountain, climbing a couloir known as Sluicebox, when a large rock fell and triggered an avalanche that swept Sterns off his feet down the mountain. The tibia and fibula in each leg were broken when McRae reached him, though it’s still unclear what happened. McRae said Sterns’ legs might have become tangled in the rope when Sterns fell or the rock could have hit him when it fell.
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