Sunday 28 December 2014

Tree surgeon 'lucky to be alive' after chainsaw embedded in neck

Published 02/04/2014 | 11:01

James Valentine, a tree trimmer, was in a tree on Monday afternoon when he was struck in the neck by the saw. Another worker helped him down, and his co-workers left the saw in place to try to limit the bleeding. Valentine had emergency surgery and is recovering.
James Valentine, a tree trimmer, was in a tree on Monday afternoon when he was struck in the neck by the saw. Another worker helped him down, and his co-workers left the saw in place to try to limit the bleeding. Valentine had emergency surgery and is recovering.

A Pennsylvania tree-trimmer is recovering after an on-the-job accident sent a chainsaw blade several inches into his neck and shoulder, hospital officials said, adding that the man is expected to make a full recovery.

James Valentine, 21, was part of a crew pruning trees on Monday afternoon when his saw suddenly kicked back and the blade sliced into him. His co-workers brought him down from the tree and he was taken to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Emergency workers removed the motor of the saw, but left the blade in Valentine's neck and shoulder to prevent additional blood loss, said Christine Toevs, medical director of the trauma ICU at Allegheny General Hospital and the trauma surgeon who operated on him.

Despite the circumstances, Valentine was "in control," she said. "He was appropriately upset, but his death was not imminent. He didn't lose control, he wasn't crying uncontrollably, and he was holding still as best he could."

Fortunately for Valentine, the blade missed his carotid artery and most of the damage was to his shoulder muscle, Toevs said. It was an encouraging sign for the trauma team that when he was admitted, Valentine was still able to speak.

"He didn't say very much except to say his name was James," Toevs said. She managed to glean a brief medical history from him, but said, "We certainly don't ask him how do you feel about having a chainsaw stuck in your neck."

Toevs speculated that while Valentine was sawing into a branch, the blade hit a knot in the wood, causing the chainsaw to kick back.

Valentine is likely to make a full recovery, according to Toevs, who expects he'll be released from the hospital on Wednesday but will need several weeks to heal completely.

"We deal with all kinds of impalements: knives, axes, tree branches," Toevs said. "In the world of trauma, the purpose is to prepare for the absolute worst, catastrophic injuries."

Valentine was not available for comment, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

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