Local News

Graham man saves his own life after leg severed in crash

Posted February 10, 2014 7:39 a.m. EST
Updated September 11, 2015 7:40 p.m. EDT

— 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.”