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For Jake Berkowitz, a Heartbreaking, “Haunting” End to Iditarod 2012

Top-ten competitor Jake Berkowitz has been withdrawn from Iditarod 2012.

The Big Lake, Alaska musher had stopped along the trail from Kaltag to Unalakleet when he accidentally cut his hand with a knife; he was attempting to cut up a frozen piece of fish so he could snack his dogs.

In Berkowitz’s own words, the injury put his future use of the hand in jeopardy. Removing himself from the race, he said, would be necessary “if I wanted to use my hand, ever, in the future.”

Berkowitz received stitches on his hand after arriving in Unalakleet, but he told KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen that it would need more thorough medical attention, especially given the risk of infection.

In short, his race could not continue.

“It’s definitely not the way we planned on ending the season,” Berkowitz said. “It will be haunting us all year long, up until next Iditarod.”

As for his future in the race, Berkowitz said that “ideally” he’d be back in 2013 but that he’d have to factor in the reality – both medical and economic – of his injury. “We’ll… see how the hand heals up… This is a pretty big financial hit,” he said.

A surgeon who happened to be in Unalakleet Sunday afternoon – Paul Sayer of Homer, Alaska – offered his thoughts on Berkowitz’s medical state.  Without too much information, Dr. Sayer noted, “I can’t hardly say anything,” but he suggested that Berkowitz “might need some specialist consultation in Anchorage.”

Overall, Dr. Sayer said, “I think he’ll be okay.”

Hear Laureli Kinneen’s report from Unalakleet: