Hand it to this Uniontown man, he's a real survivor
EDITOR'S NOTE: Today we feature the Brunton family of Uniontown, whose past year is a shining example of triumph of the human spirit.
When Mike Brunton carves the family turkey this Thanksgiving, he might experience an unpleasant flashback.
Mike cut his left hand off last December, but he thinks he's the luckiest man alive.
“Blood was spurting everywhere. I closed my eyes and prayed, ‘Please, God, don't let me pass out or I'm a dead duck,” he said when he saw his left hand lying on the worktable.
True, the Uniontown resident has had plenty of trials and tribulations during his lifetime, including being downsized twice from managerial jobs.
But Lady Luck has favored him more often, even during the traumatic experience of hand reattachment surgery and the rigorous therapy that is still ongoing.
Mike's good luck goes back more than 40 years.
Twice, he narrowly missed injury or possible death while serving with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1970. The first time was when he was on leave in Hawaii; the base where he was stationed was hit by enemy fire. Second, the one day that he wasn't in a Jeep on mail duty, the vehicle was destroyed by the North Vietnamese.
Wife Sandy grew up in Saltlick Township
Then there's his wife and his family. Mike will tell you that he's one lucky guy in that department. Wife Sandy (McClain), a native of the Indian Head / Melcroft area, was his high school sweetheart. They wed in 1964 and are still making beautiful music together 48 years later, although Sandy admits their song hit a blue note when Mike's accident happened last December.
Childless for 12 years, the Bruntons were dumbstruck when, in 1976, Sandy announced that she was pregnant at the age of 34. She has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since she was 26, but she went into remission during her pregnancy — more good luck.
Son Lance Brunton grew up to be a surgeon specializing in — of all things — hand, wrist and elbow surgery.
And — as Mike's luck would have it — it was Lance who just happened to be on duty in the emergency room when Mike was flown to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh after his accident. Lance prepped for surgery but — good luck again — his two surgical partners were in Pittsburgh. Usually one would have been in Monroeville and the other in Bethel Park. They rushed to Mike and Lance's aid and performed the complicated operation. It took 7 hours.
Back on the job 4 months early
During Mike's recuperation, he was lucky to have Lance nearby to oversee his convalescence. Doctors estimated that Mike would be off from work from his job at Home Depot for at least six months. At age 69, Mike surprised everybody; he was back in February — a scant two months after his horrific accident. The fact that he was “lucky” enough to have injured his left, not right, hand was a boon because he is right-handed.
The Bruntons, who thought they were childless until Lance came along, have been blessed with an unlikely number of grandchildren. Lance and his wife, Robin, have given them five during the past nine years — including a baby boy who was born on Oct. 17.
Yes, Mike and Sandy Brunton feel lucky this Thanksgiving.
And thankful, oh, so thankful.
WEDNESDAY: The real scoop about the Bruntons' “most thankful” Thanksgiving.
Laura Szepesi is a freelance writer.