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Beating the Odds !

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#1 RobertR


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Posted 12 August 2006 - 07:35 AM

Thomas beat long odds to survive arrow injury

By all stretches of reality, imagination and luck, Clint Thomas really should be dead - and he knows it.

A freak bowhunting accident with an arrow cut him so deeply and in such a bad place, and it happened in so remote a location, that he never should have made it out alive.

As bowhunting season approaches in just a few weeks, it shows just how important it is to be safe in your bowhunting. It shows how you need to keep your wits about you. It shows how you can survive and beat some mighty long odds, if only everything comes together just right.

"It happened at about 2:30 in the afternoon on Sept. 28, 1998," said Thomas, a Garfield County native who runs heck Creek Marina on the banks of Fort Peck Reservoir with his wife, Deb. Ordinary day

"We were guiding bowhunters up by Crooked Creek in Hunting District 410 of the Missouri Breaks," he said. "We had a ground blind built on a reservoir. A hunter had taken some practice shots and had put the arrows back in the blind loose on the ground.

"The blind was built under a little bank. I stepped off the bank into the blind and I sort of jumped in with my left foot first. It hit the ground and it was soft," Thomas continued.

"My heel hit the feathered end of the arrow on the ground and tipped it in the air and when I came in with my right leg, the arrow went in the right leg just above my knee and came up through my thigh into the groin," he said. "It completely severed the femoral artery when it went in and slit it the length of the penetration."

Blood bath

The femoral artery is a big one and it carries the blood to your leg. Cutting it creates massive bleeding. Broadhead hunting arrows are designed to make massive cuts. And archery education classes will teach you that hitting the femoral artery with a broadhead typically turns into a fatal shot on a big game animal.

So began Thomas' fight for survival.

They were far out in the Missouri Breaks, about 70 to 80 miles from pavement, including about 20 miles of two-track dirt trail. The closest hospital was at Lewistown, hours away.

"There was blood everywhere," Thomas said. "My nephew, J.C. Taylor, was there and we tried to get a tourniquet on it but we couldn't get a good tourniquet with the arrow in there.

"You're always told never to pull out something that's stuck in you. But we didn't have a choice. We had to try to get the bleeding stopped. So my nephew got the arrow jerked out and got a tourniquet on it as high as we could get it.

"We got on a motorcycle and went to camp. Then they loaded me in the back of my pickup and we started toward Lewistown. Other hunters had a cell phone and went to a high hill and told them what happened," he continued.

"We had a hard time keeping the bleeding stopped, even with the tourniquet. My nephew found where the artery went over the pelvic bone. He pinched it down. We found out later that he had held so much pressure on it for so long that he crushed the artery. It was about three hours in the pickup before we met the first ambulance on the Valentine Road," Thomas said..

Ambulances transported him to the hospital in Lewistown. He was on the verge of passing out, blacking out each time he tried to sit up.

"I must have been just about bled out," Thomas said. "At Lewistown, they gave me 27 units of blood and then put me on the Medivac plane and sent me on to Billings."

By the time he got to Billings, it was 10:30 p.m. and Thomas went in for surgery which he said wound up replacing more than a foot of femoral artery with a vein from his lower leg. He said another 98 units of blood and fluids were administered.

"By the time they were done, I had about three complete oil changes in my system," Thomas said. "And they still didn't know how I survived and how my leg survived."

The effects of keeping a tourniquet in place for so long had turned his leg black. It was swollen to three times its normal size. It took more surgery and skin grafts to repair the leg.

"It took three months for my leg to get close to back to normal size and two years before it was normal size and it's still larger than the other leg," he said. "I'm back able to use it again normally, but I don't have any feeling from the knee down. It's totally dead. All the nerves are gone."

A year after Thomas' ordeal, he said that he felt well enough to hobble back to a reservoir in District 410 and sit in a blind - much to his wife's dismay. He wound up taking his best elk ever - a massive bull that wound up scoring 382 points. It hung proudly on the wall upstairs at the Fort Peck Marina, until being lost in the fire that destroyed the marina building last winter.

Thomas has told his tale and shown pictures to hunter education and bowhunter education classes in the years since then. But many of the lessons he learned have to be tempered with a dose of good fortune regarding an incident that he probably never should have survived.

"Weird things go wrong in bowhunting," he said. "Very seldom does a person get hurt with their own equipment. They know where it is and keep track of it. It seems like 90 percent of the time, it's somebody else's gun, somebody else's arrows. Your buddy doesn't know where yours are at and you don't know where his are at.

"The most important thing was keeping your cool and the fact that my nephew was with me. J.C. was about 18 at the time. He knew what artery I'd cut and I did, too. He didn't panic. He's basically the reason I was still alive. He kept me from bleeding to death.

"In that incident with the hunter's arrows, he didn't do anything I hadn't done myself a million times. We did some practice shots. And we had to do some blind rebuilding. No sense in putting things away," he said.

"Anymore when I'm bowhunting, I do take my time to put the arrows away. I put them back in the quiver where they belong. They are very deadly," Thomas said. "And things can happen when you're not paying attention."
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#2 MuleDeer


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Posted 12 August 2006 - 09:28 AM

WOW! That's an amazing story.

#3 paturbo


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Posted 12 August 2006 - 12:19 PM

Mr. Thomas had a host of Angels on his side. Just think 98 units of blood, I believe thats enough blood for 16 people. Truely amazing he survived the ordeal.


#4 runNgun


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Posted 12 August 2006 - 03:21 PM

Wow great story!! :yes: Amazing how he survived ;)


#5 Rowdy Yates

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 07:36 PM

"Anymore when I'm bowhunting, I do take my time to put the arrows away. I put them back in the quiver where they belong. They are very deadly," Thomas said. "And things can happen when you're not paying attention."

Great lesson to be mindful of. Thanks RobertR ;)
"Keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may forever God bless you out there on the trail."

#6 huntfromthesoul


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Posted 13 August 2006 - 07:41 AM

Wow what a story. Makes ya stop and think about the saftey issues huh?
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