Local News

Man Survives Impaling Accident

Posted November 10, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Falling 30 feet from a roof is serious enough, but such an accident became far worse for an Apex man Sunday when he landed on an upright 2 x 4. The piece of wood went through his mid-section, astonishingly missing vital arteries and organs. Although recovery may take some months, he is expected to survive.

Lee Hooks, 37, was installing insulation panels to the roof of a new elementary school at McGee's Crossroads when he slipped about 9:30 a.m. The upright board was directly under the roof edge. The wood went through Hooks' right side, across his abdomen and came through his left side. The board had missed his aorta, spleen, liver and kidneys.

Doctors in Duke's Emergency Room cut a 2-foot incision across Hook's abdomen to remove the dirty construction board. He had been given a heavy dose of morphine to deal with the pain.

Several small arteries needed repair, and 12 feet of damaged small intestine were removed. If infection does not set in, Hooks is expected to be able to eat normally even with half his small intestine removed.

Co-worker Carlos Campos ran to a nearby house to call for help and then ran back to the site to dig an 18-inch hole around Hooks so the board could be removed from the earth and Hooks could lie on his back until more help arrived.

For transporting Hooks to the hospital, the rescue crew cut the protruding board closer to his body, leaving about 6 inches on each side. "So he could fit in the helicopter," Fire Chief Jim Parrish said.

Dr. John Brown said that Hooks was still alert and talking when he arrived at the Emergency Room. "He was just in an incredible amount of pain," Brown toldThe News & Observer"but at the same time very courageous. He was not hysterical."

An Emergency Room nurse said when she first saw Hooks she thought it was a Halloween prank. Brown said Hooks' injury was one of the more bizarre he has seen in his 10 years as a trauma physician.

Hooks' only other injury appeared to be a dislocated elbow.

He might be discharged in about a week, depending on infection. It could take up to six months for him to be back to his usual self. Hooks is single, has been a construction worker for about 20 years, and keeps in shape by lifting weights.

The board had been left over from a frame needed to pour a concrete floor at the as-yet unnamed school.