Rescue crews use train to save founder of Indiana foundation on mountain hike

ATLANTA, Ind. – An area leader, out to assist families financially who need prosthetics for children, said he's thankful search and rescue crews were able to help him during a hike up a New Hampshire mountain.

According to the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department, crews were called out to Mt. Washington this past Saturday evening after an injured man needed help getting down the hill.

The hiker was Mike Couch, the founder of the Lost Limbs Foundation. Couch, who had a portion of his right leg amputated due to complications from blood clots, turned the organization into a non-profit in 2014. Since then, he has helped a dozen families pay for prosthetic arms and legs when insurance wouldn't cover the expense.

Couch said he wanted to make the hike to the mountain's summit to raise money and awareness for his foundation. He said he got more than six miles into the hike before he needed help. He made the journey with crutches, rather than his prosthetic leg, which stopped functioning properly due to an air leak in a valve.

The New Hampshire officials said he was approximately 1.5 miles from the summit.

Search and rescue volunteers were planning to carry Couch back down the trail.

“Carrying an injured person is far more taxing going uphill than going down, so the plan was to carry Couch down the Jewell Trail,” said Fish & Game Lieutenant Mark Ober. “However, seeing that the Cog Railway tracks were about .5 miles from the injured hiker, I decided to inquire about the possibility of mechanical assistance.”

When Couch was asked to make the move over to the railway, he said he knew he had no choice.

"I need to get off this mountain," Couch said.

Officials in New Hampshire said the owner of the Cog Railway, a tourist train that takes people from the base of the mountain to the summit, was asked to meet Couch and his hiking partner near the top.

A brakeman and engineer were located within an hour. Couch met rescuers near the track and was placed in a stretcher to get him to the train.

He said he couldn't muster the energy to lift himself up on the train car.

"My leg, my body was so sore, they literally had to help me, pick me up and set me up on it," said Couch.

Officials said the train is almost never available to help with rescues.

Couch said he was thankful everyone reacted quickly. He said conservation officers in New Hampshire said he might have to pay for the rescue, but the owner of the railway said he wasn't going to charge the foundation's founder because he knew he was trying to help children and made the hike for a good cause.

While the goal was to make the trip to the top, Couch said his hike can still be a positive message to children who are going through the loss of an arm or leg.

"The idea was to push my limits and to show other people they can do the same," Couch said. "Just when you think you can’t do something, maybe you can. You won’t know until you try."

Couch said his organization is looking for more families to help.

As for his prosthetic leg, Couch said he'll have to ship it out for repairs. He expected to be on his crutches for at least a few weeks while it gets fixed.

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