Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 10 October 2015

US man survives pruning shears in head ordeal

Published 31/08/2011

A scan shows a pair of pruning shears embedded in the head of a man before being removed by surgeons (AP/University Medical Centre)
A scan shows a pair of pruning shears embedded in the head of a man before being removed by surgeons (AP/University Medical Centre)
Leroy Luetscher after he survived being impaled through the eye with a pair of pruning shears (AP)

An 86-year-old man has spoken of how he amazingly cheated death after being impaled through the eye by a pair of pruning shears.

Leroy Luetscher, of Phoenix, Arizona, had just finished trimming plants in his back garden when he fell face-first into the shears, sending one of the handles through his right eye socket and halfway into his head.

Unsure what had happened, Mr Luetscher reached up and felt the shears jutting from his face. He was covered in blood and in more pain than he had ever felt in his life.

"I didn't know if my eyeball was still there or what," he said. "The pain was so bad that I guess I wasn't afraid to die."

Mr Luetscher managed to put his T-shirt over the wound to stanch the bleeding. He said the excruciating pain was what kept him conscious and able to walk to the laundry room of his house to summon his live-in girlfriend, who called emergency services.

In hospital, a team of surgeons took scans of his brain and came up with a plan to treat him.

They learned the handle had gone 6ins into his head and was resting against the carotid artery in his neck.

"It was a bit overwhelming," said Dr Lynn Polonski, one of Mr Luetscher's surgeons. "It was wedged in there so tightly you could not move it. It was part of his face."

Dr Polonski said the team made incisions underneath his right upper lip and his sinus wall, allowing them to loosen the handle of the shears with their fingers.

"Once we were able to loosen it up, it went fairly easily," he said.

Doctors rebuilt Mr Luetscher's orbital floor with a titanium plate and put him on antibiotics for 20 days to stave off an infection that could have proved fatal.

Dr Polonski said so many things could have gone much worse for Luetscher. The shears could have ruptured his eyeball, hit his brain or severed his carotid artery.

"You know, if it went a little bit in a different direction, it basically could have killed him or he could have had a stroke," he said.

"He's was very lucky that it missed all vital structures and we were basically able to put him back together."

Dr Polonski said he had never seen anything like Mr Luetscher's injury in 13 years as a surgeon.

Mr Luetscher says he was not sure he will be doing much more gardening in the future.

"If that instrument had gone in any direction different than it did, I would have bled right there to death," he said.

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