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Injured musher beating the odds returns home

By Kate McPherson 7:10 AM December 5, 2014

Despite having three broken vertebrae, musher Karin Hendrickson is exceeding medical expectations and was released from Alaska Regional Hospital Thursday night.

“I’m not messing around, I’ve got stuff to do,” Hendrickson said.

Her friend Jennifer Hawks said she was surprised by the early release.

“I didn’t believe her until I came here and talked to the staff myself to hear it from them,” Hawks said. “Because knowing her she would be ready to go and they weren’t ready to let her go and I would be kidnapping her basically.”

Hawks has been by Hendrickson’s side, or helping at her property in Willow, since the Nov. 25 crash when a woman drove an SUV into Hendrickson’s four-wheeler and 14-dog team during a training run on a trail next to the Parks Highway.

Hendrickson was told it could take weeks of rehabilitation before being discharged, but she had no intention of staying in the hospital for that long.

“I’ve got to hold still, I have to rest, I can’t be jumping around I can’t get knocked around, I can’t slip and fall,” Hendrickson said of the doctors orders.

“Which basically for me means no time with the dogs, they can come inside to visit me one on one, but I can’t be out with dogs, I can’t be doing anything physical.”

Not moving will be one of the hardest parts of recovery for the physically and mentally strong Hendrickson, who was preparing for the 2015 Iditarod when she was hit.

“It’s still going to be an incredibly hard season for me because the dogs are still going to be running, they still need to get out and they are going to get to race, which is what they love to do — but I don’t get to be a part of it,” Hendrickson said.

While in the hospital, Hendrickson announced she is handing over her Iditarod position to Bryan Bearss, who will run her dog team.

“It’s amazing for any musher to share their dogs with someone else, let alone take them on a 1,000-mile race across the roughest trail in Alaska,” said Bearss as he walked Hendrickson out of the hospital.

“It’s Karin’s Iditarod, it’s her training, it’s her race, I’m just going to pretend I’m her for the dogs and make it happen,” said Bearss, an Anchorage teacher who ran the 2006 Iditarod.

Hendrickson and 38-year-old Bearss are good friends and she says, “He’s a hell of a musher.”

“My very first race as a rookie he loaned me his lead dog and she helped me get through some really tough weather,” Hendrickson said.

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