Video: Man impales eye with pruning shears

  1. Closed captioning of: Man impales eye with pruning shears

    >>> now an arizona man who is really lucky to be alive after he impaled himself on a pair of pruning shears . he's got the x-ray to prove it. nbc's lee cowen is in tucson with this story. lee, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt. you don't often hear of gardening accident that is quite this serious. if it weren't for that ct scan to show where the shears ended up in his eye you might not believe that it happened, let alone the fact that it was survival. for all those times your mother warned you not to run with scissors, this is why. but for 86-year-old leroy , there was no running me says he simply lost his balance while trimming his neighbor's bushes and ended up falling eye first on his trusty pair of pruning shears .

    >> i tell you i have never had pain like this in my life.

    >> reporter: it down through his eye socket , nasal cavity, and ended up in his neck, right next to his carotid artery .

    >> i could have pled right to death.

    >> minutes to get inside his house where his girlfriend of 12 years found him bleeding into the sink.

    >> i saw this strinstrument in his face and i just said, leroy , honey, what have you done?

    >> reporter: he was rushed to tucson 's university medical center where doctors were shocked.

    >> i've seen things like branches, nails, glass, but this was -- i call it a one in a million kind of thing that you see.

    >> reporter: the doctor who worked on congresswoman gabby giffords after she was shot in the head in january saw reason to be hopeful.

    >> we were able to loosen it enough to slide it out carefully.

    >> reporter: he reconstructed his eye socket with a titanium match. remarkably the eye itself hadn't republican churd.

    >> i can see all of you just as good with this eye.

    >> reporter: he does, however m double vision . something doctors hope will go away when the swelling goes down.

    >> for this kind of direct impact, next to his eye, he's very lucky.

    >> reporter: as for any future gardening, well, leroy says those shrubs, they may just be neglected for a while.

    >> i'm not going to be doing any prune work when i get home.

    >> this wasn't leroy 's only brush with head trauma . he once walked through a blat glass window and ended up with 240 stitches all over his face. some call him accident-prone me just calls it survival. just plain lucky.

    >> we're just shaking our heads over this one. that was amazing.

    >> he should buy a lottery ticket . he's lucky.

    >> lee cowen in tucson for us this morning. thanks very

updated 8/30/2011 7:38:39 PM ET 2011-08-30T23:38:39

An 86-year-old Arizona man had just finished trimming plants in his backyard when he fell face-first into his pruning shears, sending one of the handles through his right eye socket and halfway into his head.

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

"I didn't know if my eyeball was still there or what," Luetscher told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "The pain was so bad that I guess I wasn't afraid to die."

Luetscher managed to put his T-shirt over the wound to stanch the bleeding. He said the excruciating pain is what kept him conscious and able to walk to the laundry room of his house to beckon his longtime live-in girlfriend, who called 911.

Luetscher, a Wisconsin native who now lives in southern Arizona's Green Valley, has made a remarkable recovery since the July 30 accident. He still has slight swelling in his eyelids and minor double vision but is otherwise OK.

Doctors who removed the shears and rebuilt a bone in Luetscher's eye socket say it could have been much worse.

Video: Man impales eye with pruning shears (on this page)

After Luetscher's girlfriend, Arpy Williams, called 911, an ambulance rushed him to University Medical Center in Tucson, where a team of surgeons took scans of his brain and came up with a plan to treat him.

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

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

Polonski said the team made incisions underneath his right upper lip and his sinus wall, allowing them to loosen the handle of the pruning shears with their fingers. "Once we were able to loosen it up, it went fairly easily," he said.

Doctors rebuilt 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.

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

Image: A CT scan shows a pair of pruning shears embedded in the head of Leroy Luetscher
AP
In this image provided by the University Medical Center in Tucson, a CT scan shows a pair of pruning shears embedded in the head of 86-year-old Leroy Luetscher. He is expected to make a full recovery.

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

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

Luetscher said he was born and raised about 30 miles outside Madison, Wis., and worked as an executive in the dairy industry before retiring to Arizona in 1998.

He said he's not sure he'll 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.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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