Ten hours had passed. He awoke in recovery and was soon wheeled into what the hospital called the Tropicana Room, heated to 80 degrees. Anything colder might make the blood vessels constrict and the blood clot.
Would he ever see it again?
"DAD, I need to thank you for saving my life."
He looked up into Jenna's face. He remembered thinking how healthy she looked, and she was smiling. He had expected worse.
Jenna had flown in from Kalispell the day before. Marilyn had met her at the airport gate, where they held each other for the first time since the attack. Jenna made a joke about how good she looked, what with her swollen face, her arm in a sling, her back in a brace, holding a cane and walking with a limp. Her mother smiled.
You don't need to thank me, Johan said, but her words made him proud. They told him that she understood what he had tried to do, that there was no recrimination or blame, no "why did you take me hiking there?"
Johan was transferred to a private room. He had grown accustomed to it all — the intrusions, the tests, the constant interruptions — and he was making progress. He walked on his own. He watched music videos on television and tried to exercise his legs.
His only setback occurred during another surgery, when the ophthalmologist couldn't find the torn muscle behind his right eye. It had contracted too deeply into his skull. But Johan refused to be discouraged.
Not that life as a patient was simple. Being dependent on others never was, but Johan managed. Perhaps his stoical nature helped. Perhaps his inherent optimism. Perhaps it was his experience as a physical therapist or his training as a marathon runner.
Or maybe it was the spreading reputation that he was the man who had thrown himself in front of a grizzly bear to save his daughter. As his story circulated in the hospital, staffers marveled and wondered if they could make the same sacrifice.
On Sept. 9, 15 days after the attack and just hours before a hospital plane would fly him and Marilyn home to San Diego, Harborview arranged a press conference. From the beginning, Johan's story had caught the attention of the media. Bear attacks always do, and initially neither Johan nor Marilyn had wanted to talk. Now that he was doing better, they hoped to shut down speculation and curiosity by letting the story out.
Johan sat in a wheelchair, still confined by the halo, and answered questions. Marilyn knew he was something of a ham, and when the bright lights and cameras finally shut down, he turned to Vedder.
"How did I do?" he asked.
"You did wonderful," the surgeon said.
Close to 800 newspapers and TV stations picked up the story. Howard Stern declared Johan, because he had fought a grizzly, a legitimate "bad ass." Oprah, Ellen, Montel and Maury were soon calling.
Five days later, he and Jenna went on the "Today" show and "Good Morning America," and the more he told the story of the attack, the more he found himself being cast as a hero for taking on a bear. It was a role he assumed with a curious combination of modesty and pride.
"A good attitude will only get you so far."
Johan listened. No one had said this to him before. He was back at Scripps Memorial Hospital, but instead of walking the halls as an administrator, he was a patient.