Broomstick impales man, misses his organs & spine

Tom KingHalls, Our Town Heroes

This story defies belief. You can’t make up one like this.

Now, for the short version, with details to follow.

On Thursday July 27, 2023, at 3 p.m., an alarm sounded for Rural Metro Fire’s Blue shift crew at Station 30 in Halls to respond to a call about something they hear almost daily – a person fell and needed help. This one was at a home on Foust Hollow Road.

The man, 80, indeed did fall. But this was no routine fall call. He was not stretched out on a floor. When Lt. Cam Rood, paramedic/firefighter Misty Weimer and firefighter Nick Johnson arrived they found the man sitting upright in the grass. They were stunned. Maybe a tad speechless.

“What do we do now?” they wondered.

Protruding from his left collarbone and neck area was about six inches of the broken-off end of a broomstick or mop handle that had impaled him. He was impaled from the entry point diagonally, past his spine and across his back. The end of the broomstick almost broke through his skin, just below his right hip at the waist, seen easily with a big bulge stretching his skin.

The man called 911 himself while sitting there. When the three first responders walked into his backyard looking for him, they heard no one screaming in agony from the pain. There was no bleeding. He was a little short of breath. He was able to talk.

Lt. Rood’s first thought: “Now that’s a guy having a really bad day right there.”

Fast forward to the UT Medical Center Emergency Room around 4:30 p.m. After the initial examination and X-rays, he was in an operating room, sedated, and doctors did exploratory surgery to check if vital organs or his spine had been damaged and to check for internal bleeding. The broomstick came out.

And here is the miracle.

Not one vital organ was damaged. The stick missed his aorta and carotid artery going in and barely missed the left subclavian artery. It missed his spine. There was no internal bleeding. As it was forced down through his body it missed his heart, lungs, liver, spleen, stomach, kidneys, his pancreas and gallbladder.

He remained at UT Medical Center for two weeks, basically recovering from the exploratory surgery and the trauma the broomstick did create.

We are not identifying the man because we lack his permission. Additionally, Rural Metro is subject to the strict constraints of the HIPAA Law (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) that protects sensitive patient health information from being disclosed or shared.

Let’s fill in a few details.

This man and his wife were moving to Chattanooga. The Rural Metro pros said a moving van was in his backyard, backed up to a deck with a ramp extended from the van to the deck to load furniture. The victim was on the ramp when he apparently lost his balance and fell to the ground, three or four feet, face first and somehow landed on the broomstick. He didn’t remember how it happened, the first responders said. No one knows. His wife and the movers were inside the house.

Rood said they knew not to attempt removing the broomstick.

“We could not lay him down for fear of the stick doing more damage beyond what we thought then that he may have, plus the pain it would cause for him,” he said. That decision was confirmed by their squad leader, Capt. Brian Graham.

The Engine 236 Blue crew from Station 36 was called for back up and they were needed – Capt. Graham and firefighters Adam Brantley and Jeremy Vaughn. Also, there were firefighters Aaron Bilbry and Jason Gomes-Brant from Station 31 in Powell.

Paramedic Weimer said the gentleman’s vital signs were all normal, but he was having a little difficulty breathing and said it hurt some to breathe.

“We helped him breathe with some oxygen and gave him pain meds through an IV. We told him that he needed to remain still and not move at all. He was as cool as a cucumber throughout all of this,” she said.

Lifestar, the medical rescue helicopter, was called for a quick ride to UT Medical Center. Lifestar landed but could not transport him. “The man had to be transported in the sitting position and Lifestar could not do that,” Rood said. “So, we went to the engine and got our Stokes Bucket that allows us to carry someone in an upright position.”

After he was carefully situated in the bucket, with his back padded to prevent pain, eight Rural Metro responders very slowly carried him down the long, gravel driveway, making sure to keep him level with no bouncing or jostling, Rood said. The driveway was so narrow and lined with trees that the engine and the ambulance could not drive to the home and it’s a long driveway. Approximately 25 minutes after arriving, the Rural Metro team had him in an AMR ambulance.

“Yep, for sure this is a call none of us will ever forget and it’s call that we will never get again in all probability,” Capt. Graham said. “When these calls come in that someone has fallen and needs help, something like this is not what you expect to find.”

Rood, Weimer and Johnson just nodded in agreement.

“I know how surprised I was when we walked up to him in his backyard. ‘Wow’ came to mind,” Weimer said. “And then I said to myself, how am I going to take care of this?”

And perhaps Capt. Graham summed it up best: “Just another routine traumatic call.”

These professionals see a little bit of everything in their careers, things the rest us would not want to see. For different reasons this is a call they will never forget. “The man upstairs was looking after this man. That’s the only explanation,” Rood said, shaking his head.

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia. If you have someone you think we should consider featuring, please email him at the link with his name or text him at 865-659-3562.


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