Local News

Graham man saves his own life after leg severed in crash

Posted February 10, 2014
Updated September 11, 2015

— It's tough to get comfortable when you're hooked up to IV's and monitoring machines, but Jay Traylor is grateful to be alive and at Duke Hospital, holding his fiancee's hand.

Two weeks ago, his SUV veered off Interstate 40 in Orange County and into a guardrail. The guardrail sliced through the vehicle and severed his right leg.

It was Jan. 26, Traylor remembers, and was from helping a friend in Raleigh cut down trees and clear his yard. The work went late into the day and Traylor was exhausted as he headed home to Graham. As he approached Hillsborough, he thought maybe he should get out and stretch. But he drifted off to sleep.

“That was my last thought before I woke up with the guard rail coming through the floor panel, between the gas and the brake pedal,” Traylor said. “I could see where the leg was severed, but not the other part of it.”

The guardrail barely missed his torso and continued through the back seat, stopping short of the back door of the vehicle.

Traylor was alone and in tremendous pain. But the Eagle Scout and former Marine did not panic. He said he tried to "not freak out" as he deliberately slowed down his breathing.

“I somehow found my cellphone and called 911 so they could start a GPS locater on me since I had no clue where I was at,” Traylor said.

Then he had to stop the bleeding. He pulled off his belt to tie a tourniquet.

“I'm on the phone with the 911 lady explaining to her, ‘Look, we’re running out of time. I’m bleeding out. I can feel this is going real bad, real quick,’” Traylor said.

He realized his vehicle was down an embankment and activated his turn signal so responders could find him.

Paramedics found Traylor's car and rushed him to Duke Hospital. He lost consciousness and did not wake up until the next day.

“The first week I was here, I got 10 to 15 minutes of sleep every 30 to 40 minutes,” he said.

Traylor’s fiancée, Sheila Black, has hardly left his side.

“When you love someone, it’s easy to do for them,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears. “It’s a big change, so we’re going to make it through together.”

Traylor has had six surgeries, including the amputation of his other leg, which was badly mangled in the wreck.

“I can deal with the legs a whole lot better than if my hands came off,” said Traylor, an electrician.

With his amputations below the knee, Traylor said he plans to use prosthetics to walk again soon.

“I’ll be hindered some, won’t be back like I was,” he said. “But it will still be a full, happy life.”


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  • nealstanley32 Feb 10, 2014

    Form Imagesome people just donot get it. this man is human not a machine. we all make bad judgements bad decisions he is very lucky. hope you and wife to be many blessings. GOD has spared you now show him thanks. help others to make better decisions by telling your story.

  • Betsy Smith Feb 10, 2014
    user avatar

    Tips for sleepy drivers. The FIRST second you feel sleepy or start yawning, pinch yourself hard, do big circles in the air with your free arm and sing as loudly as you can repeatedly UNTIL you reach your destination. Better to annoy your passengers than hurt yourself or others. If pride and money aren't your top concerns, here are some additional tips: Pinch and sing yourself to the NEXT exit where you 1) check into a hotel and get some Zs OR 2) park and call someone to come get you OR 3) park and take a power nap (not the safest option, be sure to lock your doors) OR 4) consume lots of caffeine, do jumping jacks then sing/pinch your way to your destination.

    It was irresponsible to get behind the wheel no matter where he was coming from. But others will do the same so I thought it best to give helpful tips instead of just bashing his poor choice.

  • hdontheroad Feb 10, 2014

    Once a Marine, always a Marine.
    I'm sure you were helping a good friend & tree work is always tough.
    I salute you !

  • Betty Lanier Feb 10, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    he was coming home from helping friend.

  • eyeoneastsky Feb 10, 2014

    God speed to this young man and his wife to be. What a wonderful and attitude they have! May God shower you both with victory, patience, love , and a long happy life together.

  • SomebodyNeedsToPay Feb 10, 2014

    View quoted thread

    If he was "drunking" or texting and driving it would be a misjudgement as well, no? I mean he's only human.. and how do you know that he wasn't doing the above? anyways really think about what you're saying..this dude was reckless and someones family could be dealing with in a much worse fashion because of his misjudgement. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/sleep/articles/2010/11/08/driving-drowsy-as-bad-as-driving-drunk

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Feb 10, 2014

    ICMFAL - "He is lucky all he lost was 2 legs and did not kill somebody on the road that day. If you are so tired that you cannot keep your eyes open, you are better off not driving."

    He was coming home from WORK!!!

    How many people do you know who AREN'T tired when coming home from work, especially those who do PHYSICAL jobs like he was doing???

    The whole point of this story is his survival and his great attitude following what many would find to be an incapacitating loss.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Feb 10, 2014

    “I can deal with the legs a whole lot better than if my hands came off,” said Traylor, an electrician.

    With his amputations below the knee, Traylor said he plans to use prosthetics to walk again soon.

    “I’ll be hindered some, won’t be back like I was,” he said. “But it will still be a full, happy life.”

    What a GREAT atitude!!!

    Prayers for him, and Semper Fi from another Marine.

  • willcarry1 Feb 10, 2014


  • dcshadows Feb 10, 2014