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Allegheny General surgeons remove chain saw blade from tree trimmer's neck

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - An X-ray of James Valentine's neck shows a chain saw lodged two inches into his neck. Valentine, 21, of the South Side received about 30 stitches, said doctors at Allegheny General Hospital.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>An X-ray of James Valentine's neck shows a chain saw lodged two inches into his neck. Valentine, 21, of the South Side received about 30 stitches, said doctors at Allegheny General Hospital.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - James Valentine, 21, of the South Side, feels lucky to be alive after he was admitted to Allegheny General Hospital Monday after an accident trimming trees in Ross Township. Valentine was hit in the neck with a chain saw.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>James Valentine, 21, of the South Side, feels lucky to be alive after he was admitted to Allegheny General Hospital Monday after an accident trimming trees in Ross Township. Valentine was hit in the neck with a chain saw.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014, 12:36 p.m.
 

When Ross/West View Emergency Medical Services Authority paramedics dropped off a tree trimmer with a chain saw embedded 2 inches into his neck at Allegheny General Hospital, they felt as if they had done all that they could do to help him.

“It takes us a while to kind of wind down from something like that,” said Greg Porter, assistant director the authority.

The saw missed the carotid artery of the patient, James Valentine, 21, of Pittsburgh's South Side, by a centimeter and didn't hit his esophagus, trachea or spinal cord, He is expected to make a full recovery.

“I definitely feel lucky,” said Valentine, who works for Adler Tree Service in West Deer Township. “It was just a freak accident.”

The accident happened about 2:30 p.m. March 31 at a home in the 700 block of Perry Highway in Ross Township when Valentine's buzzing saw kicked back into him as he worked 15 feet off the ground in a Scotch pine.

He described the pain as “worse pain than you could ever imagine.” The chain bar, which was about 3 inches wide and 15 inches long, also injured his left shoulder. An X-ray that showed the chain saw blade embedded into Valentine's neck went viral.

Porter, 42, of Etna said Ross/West View paramedics arrived within four minutes of the call and that the scene was bloody when he arrived.

“I've been doing this a long time, and this is the first time I've seen a chain saw impaled,” he said.

Valentine's co-workers and paramedics took the saw apart on the scene, which, Porter said, was a challenge. They left the blade and bar in his neck until he arrived at the hospital; removing them could have caused severe bleeding, doctors said.

Porter said paramedics were on the scene for approximately eight minutes, and the ride to the hospital, where they dropped the patient off with about 50 staff members, took about 12 minutes.

“The system worked extraordinarily well,” Porter said at a press conference.

Valentine said he never lost consciousness, but “everything was going through my head,” including wondering whether he would die.

Porter said paramedics talked to Valentine, who was “obviously fearful,” the entire time and told him he was in good hands.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the EMS did everything they could for James,” said Dr. Christine Toevs, the trauma surgeon who removed the blade in an hourlong procedure.

“They really did a phenomenal job.”

“I couldn't be happier with our people,” Porter said of the seven paramedics on the scene.

Valentine received 30 stitches and five staples in his neck and was discharged from the Pittsburgh hospital within 48 hours of the accident.

He was expected to return to work in several weeks.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or kshea@tribweb.com.

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