POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — What started out as an ordinary work day for Jerome resident Justin Firth suddenly turned into a life-or-death situation after he was impaled by a 3-inch wide, 110-pound spike.
The accident happened a few weeks ago, and Firth is expected to make a near-full recovery and could leave the hospital soon.
Firth and his co-workers were setting up a fence in Jerome when he describes seeing a flash and feeling pressure on his back. He looked down and saw a spike sticking through his abdomen.
“Everyone started screaming and running and calling 911 and I was just stuck there,” he said.
Firth was coherent through the incident but he was not able to feel any pain except for the pressure on his back as he waited for emergency personnel to arrive.
Paramedics on the scene didn’t have the tools to remove the spike from the front loader it was attached to. So his co-workers used a torch to cut it off. They even used some industrial putty to stop the heat from burning him.
Once Firth was cut free, with the spike still sticking through his back, he was transported by air ambulance to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello. Upon arrival, he spent three and a half hours in surgery.
His wife, Anny Firth, was on her way to her husband’s worksite when she got a call saying she had to get to the site as soon as possible.
Once Anny arrived, a police officer stopped her and said that Justin had requested that she not see him in his current condition.
“I asked ‘how bad is it, shoot straight with me, I don’t want it sugarcoated,’ and he said ‘Anny it’s not good,’” she said.
Anny said that she and Firth’s loved ones prayed and had faith that he would recover.
Luckily, Anny was able to tell Firth that she loved him before he went under for surgery and lost consciousness.
“The last thing I remember was them telling me everything would be OK, and they’d given me something to relax, and that was it,” Justin said.
Justin can’t remember anything from the next four days after his surgery. On the second day of his hospitalization, Justin and Anny celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary while he was still in and out of consciousness.
Dr. Terrence Rager, a surgeon at Portneuf Medical Center who operated on Justin, said Firth was extraordinarily lucky because the spike could’ve hit some major vascular organs.
Rager said that the spike went under Firth’s ribcage and missed the tube connecting his bladder to his kidney by a few centimeters.
The spike could’ve hit his spinal cord and the nerves attached to his spinal cord as well. Rager said the spike missed by just a few millimeters or centimeters.
Justin’s injuries could have been one of the worst things Rager had ever seen as a trauma doctor. Instead, it’s the opposite.
“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen because it was a potentially catastrophic injury that’s going to have a really great outcome,” Rager said.
The surgeon also said that with some physical therapy and rehabilitation, he was cautiously optimistic that Justin would make a near-full recovery.
“This could’ve killed me instantly if it had just hit one way or the other,” Justin said. “It could’ve paralyzed me.”
Justin said that he’d never seen anything like this happen to his co-workers before and that he felt very lucky to have survived.
Justin plans on going back to farming once he’s fully recovered, but that he had to, “change his mind set and figure out why things happened the way they did.”
Information from: Idaho State Journal, http://www.journalnet.com