I spent many hours of my surgical career treating patients who were admitted through the emergency room, and I treated them for a multitude of acute and serious problems. It has been more than twenty years since I retired from my surgical practice, but I still experience some anxiety when a hear an ambulance siren, and reflexively think that I might soon be getting a call to the ER. Some of my angst in those days was thinking I would have to provide emergency care to a family member or a close friend, which occasionally happened. That is the reality of practicing medicine in a small community.
I received a call from the ER early in the evening of a mid-week day when emergency calls are usually fewer in number. The nurse informed me I needed to come to the ER to see a man who was stabbed in the neck. Frequently a stab-wound injury to the neck requires an emergency operation to determine if a vital organ is injured, but I was hoping this wound was superficial, and the patient could be observed for a few hours and sent home. The nurse simply told me the wound “was pretty deep and there is a lot of blood,” so I got into my vehicle and drove quickly. It was a five minute drive to the hospital, but when I walked into the trauma room I discovered the injury was very severe.
Four emergency personnel were attending the injured man, starting IV’s, monitoring vital signs, obtaining essential information about the accident, while one person was doing nothing but holding tight pressure on the man’s neck using 4 large, blood-soaked towels. There was a lot of blood on the floor, so I told them, “Type and cross match 4 units of blood as quickly as possible!” What happened to him?” “He was stabbed in the neck by his ex-wife’s boy-friend following a heated argument,” stated one of the nurses. “Let me see the extent of the injury,” I said, as I began to slowly remove the bloody towels. As I very carefully began removing the final towel, I could see blood beginning to escape very slowly from the wound. Upon complete removal of the towel, there was a sudden and cataclysmic gush of blood which seemed to reach a height of two to three feet, and I quickly replaced the final towel and held the life-saving pressure myself.
“We’re taking him immediately to the OR without any more tests!” I commanded. I was told the OR crew was en route, so we started the move to the OR while I continued holding the critical pressure. I asked the patient how he was doing and he said, “I’m scared to death.” “We’ve got it all under control Jim and you are going to be alright,” I tried to reassure him.
Jim was a thirty year old man with a husky physique and a bull-like neck which made our work a lot harder. I was thankful he was alert and able to communicate, because his injury was obviously to the left carotid artery, and he was not getting any blood flow to the left side of his brain from that artery which I had occluded.
Once we had him asleep under anesthesia and could get two occluding clamps on the proximal and distal ends of the severed artery we could proceed at a more relaxed pace. I discovered he had been stabbed with a fixed-blade broad-head arrow, well known to local deer hunters. The external wound was quite scary, once we had time to fully inspect the injury. We repaired the artery and re-established blood flow to his brain within thirty minutes. We waited to see if he had any significant brain damage, and fortunately within an hour or two after awakening from the anesthetic, he was talking coherently and his cognition was excellent.
The following morning on rounds Jim was willing to discuss the details leading up to the argument while explaining to me what had happened. We both agreed it was a miracle of God we were able to have a conversation that morning. Then I asked him a key question, “Jim, if you had bled to death yesterday in that yard, where would you be this morning?” “I guess I would be in hell, considering the life I have been living,” he slowly confessed. “Jim, would you like to ask God to save you from hell and make you a new man?” I asked. “Yes sir, I sure would,” he quickly replied. I opened my pocket Bible, and showed him the scriptures which explain Biblical salvation, and how one asks for and receives the free gift of salvation from Christ. Jim received the gift from his Savior that morning, and I believe there was a great celebration in heaven. I know there was a celebration with tears of joy in his hospital room that morning.
I gave Jim my final thoughts before I left his room on what had happened. “Jim,” I said, “yesterday that man pierced your neck with an arrow and nearly ended your life, but this morning God pierced your heart with His forgiveness, and now you have life forever. That is some kind of great deal, isn’t it?” Jim quietly said, “I know you are right!”
Three weeks later when his wound was healed and water-tight he followed with baptism in a local church. I do not know where Jim is today, but I am confident where ever he lives he has told this life-saving and life-giving story many times to his friends. I feel confident his bow hunting buddies related to the deadly potential of such an arrow. Perhaps some of them have even had their lives changed by his story.