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Coming back from the edge

Chris Windeyer
Northern News Services
Monday, March 12, 2007

IQALUIT - Attention Governor General Michaelle Jean: Mick Mallon wants his kiss.

It's nothing devious, it's just that when you're lying at the bottom of a cliff facing your own death it tends to make a person contemplate their legacy.

The prominent Inuktitut teacher tumbled down a cliff between Apex and Iqaluit during a walk Feb. 19, breaking several bones, puncturing a lung and suffering severe frostbite to his hands and feet. He lay in the freezing cold for nearly nine hours before being rescued.

In an interview from his Ottawa hospital bed, Mallon said the ordeal gave him time to think about how he should get an Order of Canada award for his work.

"No Governor General, male or female, has ever kissed me," he said. "I take seven stupid steps and I'm a bloody hero. There's no justice in the world at all."

Mallon's sense of humour clearly suffered no injury. But friends and family were worried Mallon faced the amputation of his right hand from the frostbite damage. Daughter Amanda Mallon said the pace of his recovery has been remarkable, though he still faces the amputation of his iqqiquq - his pinky finger above the second knuckle.

"As far as we're concerned, that's pretty cheap," she said.

After his fall at around 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, Mick thought at first he couldn't move. Then he became aware he could shuffle downhill towards the snowmobile trail that connects Apex and Iqaluit. By around six o'clock he "ran out of gravity."

By that time, his punctured lung was catching up to him and Mick's breathing became shallow and laboured. That's when he started to think that maybe hypothermia, not the fall, was going to kill him.

"As far as I know about hypothermia, eventually you go into a coma," he said. "So (he thought) 'where the hell's the coma?'"

That's where things get a little sketchy. Mick remembers one of his rescuers calling his name, but once he got to the hospital in Iqaluit things became a blur, especially after the morphine kicked in.

"I had hallucination after hallucination," he said.

At this point in the interview "three serious looking medical people" came into Mallon's hospital room to ask him some questions.

"Why don't you listen to me getting interviewed (by the doctors)? This is going to get you a Pulitzer."

While he jokes from his bed about his ordeal making a good idea for "a second-rate movie," Mick turns deadly serious on the topic of Jimmy Noble and Matthew Akavak, the men who rescued him.

"I owe one hell of a lot to those guys who were out in the snow," he said. "And there's no way to crack jokes about that."

Mallon expects to spend a few more weeks in hospital, and says his goal is to be fit for summertime, if not his upcoming birthday and wedding anniversary. And he'll have that much more grist for his storytelling mill.

"I'm having a great time. I'm having my celebration of lives lived...while I'm alive, which is kind of nice because you never get to meet the dear friends that are thinking of you."