Friends, strangers come to aid of search-and-rescuer

Greg Wood had his right leg amputated below the knee

Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue volunteer Greg Wood, May 18, 2017 (KOIN)
Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue volunteer Greg Wood, May 18, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When Greg Wood was 14, he volunteered with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search-and-Rescue team. He got hooked and spent the next 14 years helping people who were trapped.

Greg Wood, a volunteer with Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue, in an undated photo posted on a GoFundMe page, May 18, 2017
Greg Wood, a volunteer with Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, in an undated photo posted on a GoFundMe page, May 18, 2017

“It’s an adrenaline kick when you get that call at 3 in the morning, you get up and you go,” Wood told KOIN 6 News. “It’s an awesome feeling when you find a subject you’re looking for.”

Now, others are helping him deal with a life-altering situation. Tuesday, doctors at OHSU amputated his right leg about 6 inches below the knee.

Wood, 29, first noticed a problem in December 2015 when he “kind of stepped my heel into a gopher hole and thought I had just sprained my ankle.” But it wasn’t getting better and he got it X-rayed in March 2016.

The doctors found a tumor and he began treatment. He had surgery in October 2016 and said it went well, but his leg began hurting again in March 2017.

“The tumor came back so aggressively and it came back with a vengeance,” he said Thursday. “I had no tibia at the base of my ankle, just all tumor.”

Multnomah County Sheriff's Lt. Chad Gaidos with Greg Wood, a volunteer with Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue May 18, 2017 (KOIN)
Multnomah County Sheriff’s Lt. Chad Gaidos with Greg Wood, a volunteer with Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, May 18, 2017 (KOIN)

Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Chad Gaidos said Wood is one of their most dedicated volunteers.

“Certainly his perseverance in terms of not only the SAR program, but also as he recovers through this is a testament to who he is,” Gaidos said.

“He’s truly one of our best to make sure when people are lost in the Gorge we’re able to find them.”

Wood said it’s “an amazing feeling” when he and the other SAR volunteers find someone.

He said he comforts them, let’s them know they’re safe, “we’re going to get you back down to your family and we’re going to get you out.”

Since September, he’s volunteered more than 400 hours to help searches in the Gorge, and over the 14 years he’s spent more than 7000 hours with SAR.

He’s the Assistant Head Logistics Advisor — “I’m helping coordinate the search. I’m helping the teams get to where the subject is. I’m logging radio contact, checking on the status of the teams in the field” — and is considered one of the “go-to” people about equipment.

Multonmah County Search and Rescue head advisor Ta Adams Keller with volunteer Greg Wood, May 18, 2017 (KOIN)
Multnomah County Search and Rescue head advisor Ta Adams Keller with volunteer Greg Wood, May 18, 2017 (KOIN)

The head advisor with Multnomah County’s SAR, Ta Adams Keller, said “it takes a certain type of person to take time off of work, time out of family time to go and help strangers who are lost in the woods.”

She set up a GoFundMe page to help him with expenses not covered by insurance.

Keller added Wood is so positive “he can turn any situation into something great” and was impressed he was ready to talk just 2 days after his surgery.

“Just shows the willpower and strength behind him,” Keller said.

He’s already looking forward to getting back to the work he loves with SAR — after a few weeks for healing and being fitted for a prosthetic.

Wood said he’s overwhelmed by the number of people helping him through GoFundMe. “I can’t even put words to it,” he said.

He has the support of his family — and his SAR family.

“I just take it day-by-day and I set goals for myself that day and I hit those goals. Like on Tuesday I couldn’t even get up on the walker and today I’m standing by myself without support.”

The lessons he learned from his years searching for others are lessons he’s applying to his current situation.

“Just the mentality that we’re going to get through this,” he said. “This is a challenge that’s been put to us and we’re going to meet that challenge.”

GoFundMe — Greg’s Leg

Multonmah County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue volunteer Greg Wood, May 18, 2017 (KOIN)
Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue volunteer Greg Wood, May 18, 2017 (KOIN)