Unexpected healing on the Iditarod Trail after serious January accident

 Kelly Maixner talking about an accident in January that left him with serious injuries.
Kelly Maixner talking about an accident in January that left him with serious injuries. (KTUU)
Published: Mar. 14, 2020 at 7:06 PM AKDT
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A musher based out of Big Lake is finding the Iditarod Trail restorative after sustaining serious injuries in January.

Iditarod veteran Kelly Maixner is driving a team down the trail made up of dogs owned by Dallas Seavey.

Earlier in the winter, Maixner brought Seavey's team to his dog lot. The dogs, unfamiliar with Maixner's yard, took the wrong trail.

Jumping over a berm, the sled tipped. Maixner went for his snow hook, a heavy hunk of metal shaped like a giant fishing hook that's attached to a taut line connected to a sled.

Mushers use snow hooks to stop teams or hold them in place. That January day, the hook didn't hold.

"My sled went forward, past where I was, then that snow hook let loose and it hit me, right in the back of the head," Maixner said. "It fractured my skull and then it ripped my ear half off."

Maixner has a titanium plate in his skull and some physical effects from the accident. "My face doesn't work temporarily, I can't close my eye or smile," he said.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race often sees bodies deteriorate with sleep deprivation and physical exertion. Maixner has the found the trail to be healing.

"I noticed that my face is moving a lot more than when I started the race, and my eye is closing," he said.

Driving his team down the trail, Maixner has been wearing goggles. Coming into the Cripple checkpoint, he took his goggles off and noticed he could tolerate the wind and snow.

"It's healing a lot faster out here," Maixner said, putting his recovery down to keeping moving and getting his circulation going.

After just two months from a serious injury, Maixner is heading to Nome and what would be his seventh Iditarod finish. "It's the first thing that Iditarod has healed, I guess," he said.

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