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'One more night and he'd have been gone'

Caring neighbors, plenty of prayer and a string of lucky breaks helped 70-year-old Ed Jorgensen of Trail survive 33 hours on icy ground with a broken hip.

Jorgensen fell down a steep slope at his farm on Vine Creek, south of Lost Creek Lake on Dec. 17. He was able to crawl about 30 feet toward his house, but no farther. His son, Mark, who lives in San Francisco, began to worry after his father didn't answer the phone last Thursday or Friday.

Mark Jorgensen searched Jackson County's online property records to find names of his father's neighbors, found their telephone numbers on other Web sites, and asked them to check on his dad.

What they found last Friday evening was disturbing. Ed Jorgensen's truck and his dog were at the house, but not Ed. There was only one explanation, his son said — he was down somewhere on his property, with a freezing night settling in.

Neighbors searching with flashlights found Jorgensen around 10 p.m., lucid and in good spirits, but edging into delirium.

"One more night and he'd have been gone," Mark Jorgensen said. "He was hallucinating and talking about the new flower gardens that just went in at the creek. It was stressful, but had a happy ending."

"We feel God led us to him and took care of him overnight," said Dave Davern, the neighbor who found him. "We were overjoyed we could help."

Jorgensen was still in Providence Medford Medical Center Wednesday, recovering from surgery. He said his 6-month-old yellow Labrador, Ruby, came to keep him company, often lying on his bad leg.

"I said, 'OK, Lord, it's in your hands and that's it,' " he recalled. "Getting rescued won't happen just because of my desires. I told Ruby, 'It's OK, you're not helping, so you can leave.' She was a sweetie."

Did Jorgensen give up hope?

"Well, I didn't know for sure if I was a goner," he said, "but I didn't think so. If the Lord got me this far, it wasn't just to let me go."

Neighbors Debby Swope and Heidi Holm, teachers at Grace Christian School in Medford, were first on the scene and searched the house unsuccessfully for Jorgensen.

The neighbors' search of the farm was hampered by a hole in cell phone coverage. Finding Jorgensen was "a miracle," Swope said.

"I almost didn't answer the call (from Mark Jorgensen) because it was a strange number and after 9 p.m.," she said. "And it had been 6 degrees up here just a week before. He was warmly dressed though, and we were all praying to God for this man's life."

When Ed Jorgensen was found, he asked for his pastor, Gary Clark of St. John's Lutheran Church in Shady Cove. Clark arrived within minutes, along with an ambulance.

"I couldn't stay home," said Clark. "I prayed all the way out there. It was a miracle.

"If," he paused, obviously thinking about what would have happened if Jorgensen had spent another night outside, "I don't want to think about it. Our prayers were definitely answered."

To prevent a repeat incident, Mark Jorgensen has bought his dad portable radios that all his neighbors are plugged in to, and he's outfitting his dad with an air horn he can blast three times in an emergency.

Ed Jorgensen, a retired teacher who bought his farm just last June, said he expects to be back on his farm soon — and stay in good touch with his new neighbors.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Marla Dellalunga visits Wednesday with her father, Ed Jorgensen, who is recovering at Providence Medford Medical Center after he fell and broke his hip. Jorgensen was stuck on icy ground at his Vine Creek farm for 33 hours before neighbors found him. - Jamie Lusch