UPDATED ON: May 1st, 2015
With October quickly gathering us back into our favorite woodlots all across the country, the following story reminds us of the dangers that can exist whenever we climb into a tree. This story is true. It was sent to us by one of our readers with intentions of saving lives. The names have been altered to protect the author, but he reminds us all just how careful we need to be while in our favorite perches this fall.
“I still have dreams once in a while about my accident, not really dramatic dreams, but just dreams about the accident and the fall, over and over again”. -from the author.
On November 4th, I was bow hunting with my good friend Steve Smith. We had hunted the morning and then decided to change stand locations and move during the mid morning. I picked out a tree and started up that tree in my climbing tree stand. I climbed to about 28 feet and set my stand. I was reaching into my pocket to get out my safety strap and secure myself to the tree. But before I did that, I decided that I wanted to move my stand around the tree a little, just a slight shift to get a better angle on the deer. While doing this I did not secure the top part of my stand completely and it jerked just a little, and just enough to knock me off my stand and send me backwards 28 feet to the ground. I remember everything, the fall, the realization that something was wrong, and the PAIN. It was SEVERE, like nothing I had ever felt.
I remember my friend Steve came running over to me and calmed me down the best he could. He knew I was in trouble and hurting bad. He calmly called 911 and then explained to me he had to get to a road to direct emergency personnel to me. When Steve left I panicked and started yelling for help, not sure why I guess, because I knew help was coming, I guess I was crying out because I knew I was paralyzed and I was just asking GOD to help me. That part was and is still really hard to think or talk about. The feelings I had at that point are very real and very hard to explain, but I just felt so helpless, because I knew what was wrong, but I could do nothing about it. It was really tough. In those few short minutes while Steve went and directed the emergency personnel I drifted in and out of consciousness, not really dreaming or anything like that, more of just trying to imagine it never happened and I would wake up and would be dreaming. I wasn’t.
Sometime later, Steve and the emergency personnel came to my aid. There was a mixture of talking and questions, and all just seemed like muttering to me. I understood what was going on and was aware of what was happening, but I just remember it all like muttering. They took wonderful care of me from the very moment they arrived; they almost all knew me, some were neighbors and some were customers at my store, which helped a lot. I did not want to be saved at that point actually as the pain was so unbearable. I asked them to just shoot me! I know that sounds pretty morbid but at the time all I could think of was of not being able to move for the rest of my life and I was scared.
It was pretty hard to comprehend what was going on and to talk about that is even harder. What was I thinking? I’m not sure, but my mind was not thinking right. I remember hearing them say we need to get a Life Flight called in and I knew I was in real trouble then. The emergency people lifted me onto a hoist and pulled me probably 300 yards through pretty deep underbrush. I am sure I was heavy but they never tripped or even hit a bump, they did great. The helicopter noise was very loud, it was all I could hear, it seemed like it was right on top of me. I will never forget that sound for the rest of my life. I was quickly loaded onto the helicopter and I remember the nurses onboard asking me a bunch of questions and sticking needles into me. At one point I remember telling them that I could not breathe at all, at that point they realized that my lung had collapsed and one nurse said this is going to hurt and they cut my right side under my armpit. I remember thinking that really was not that bad, and just then, they shoved a tube into that cut and guided it down to my lung. I have never in my life ever felt that kind of pain! I hope I never do. Of all the pains and sensations I had during my whole ordeal that pain of that tube going into my chest was the worst pain I have ever felt… period! I could breathe much better but it still hurt badly.
Once we got to Iowa City I was greeted by my wife, my mother and father in law, and Steve’s wife. My wife was a wreck I knew, but she kept her cool in front of me as I was falling apart and really thought my life was over. At that point I went into surgery for 7 ½ hours. Thankfully the best back surgeon in Iowa City was there to perform my surgery and he did an amazing job. I was then put in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. I was pretty much out of it but still aware of what had happened. I received the best care in that unit I could ever hope for. In fact, one of my nurses was a girl named Heidi and I actually knew her father Joe very well, she was awesome and very caring. I knew I was in great hands from then on.
After some time I was transferred to the neurology unit where I just laid in bed to heal. I did not like that part at all except for all the visitors, there were a ton and it was awesome. I spent seven short days in Iowa City before they sent me to physical therapy. At that point I went to Great River Medical Center for my Rehabilitation. From that time on was just fantastic and I miss those nurses who helped me so much. I think about them everyday and smile just knowing what they did for my family and I.
The author of this painful reminder suffered broken vertebrae at the T-8/9 level, or about halfway up his back. With just a few fibers left connecting his spinal cord at the level of the injury, it will render him paralyzed from an inch above the belly button all the way down to his feet for what is sure to be the rest of his life. However, only time will tell.
NEW for 2011 the TreeSpider safety harness promises to bring hunters home safely this fall.
The staff here at the Hunting Network reminds everyone just how important it is to be safe at all times while in the woods this autumn. Always wear your safety harness, hunt with a friend whenever possible, and always tell your loved ones where you will be and when you will return home to them. Accidents happen so the best defense is prevention.
Stay safe and good luck!