Rudy Noorlander, who lost part of his jaw in a grizzly bear attack in Montana last month, says he’s looking forward to a special treat as he prepares to leave the hospital.
“‘That first root beer float is going to taste so amazing,’” the Navy veteran said through a letter of thanks read by his daughter, KateLynn Noorlander-Davis, at a Friday news conference at University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City.
Noorlander, 61, underwent three surgeries in the past five weeks at the hospital after a bear bit off his lower jaw on September 8 in Custer Gallatin National Forest near Big Sky, Montana.
After a complete jaw reconstruction, physicians and Noorlander’s daughters say he’s nearly ready to rejoin his family and his dog, Sully, in Montana. The family says they’re hoping he can return home on Monday.
“‘Soon, I’m going to be a free-range chicken and won’t be hooked up to anything,’” Noorlander said in the letter his daughter read.
Noorlander, who is still recovering from the injuries, used a whiteboard and a marker to answer questions at the news conference.
“It does hurt a little when he tries to speak,” Noorlander-Davis said.
He’s expected to make a full recovery as he works on regaining his ability to eat normally and talk, according to his surgeon, Dr. Hilary McCrary.
The bear attack happened after Noorlander attempted to help hunters locate a deer they thought they had killed, according to the family’s GoFundMe campaign.
His family said Friday he was attacked on a trail he’d traveled over the past two decades.
Noorlander encountered an adult grizzly bear and pulled out a gun to scare the animal away when a larger bear approached him, the GoFundMe page read.
Noorlander was unable to fight the bear and it bit off his lower jaw. The hunters he was assisting scared the animal off and called for help, the post stated.
The attack wasn’t Noorlander’s first experience with a bear. He shared on Friday that he also encountered one when he was 10.
There’s a chance that his most recent encounter may not be his last. “I will win round two,” Noorlander jokingly wrote on his marker board.
“I would like for him to not do that!” laughed Noorlander-Davis, who described her father on GoFundMe as “the bravest and strongest man I know.”
His family and life have given him hope and motivation through his recovery, said Noorlander, whose family noted has kept a positive attitude despite what he’s endured.
“He’s been racing people in the hallways, and we’re like, ‘take it easy,’” Noorlander-Davis said.
He did not yet want to discuss the attack, saying that he would eventually tell his story in a book, according to his daughters.
“He would like Cole Hauser from (the Paramount Network series) ‘Yellowstone’ to play him in a movie,” Noorlander-Davis said.
Ashley Noorlander said her dad is already planning to go snowmobiling again by December.
“We’re just super happy he’s alive and here,” she said.
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com