Lifelong logger suffers life-threatening chainsaw injury
Morrill resident James Sprague has used a chainsaw most of his life. He first learned as a teenager and has spent most of his adult life in the woods working as a logger. James was working alone one fall day when his chainsaw kicked back and struck him in the neck. The blow severed his jugular vein along with several nerves in his neck that immediately rendered his left arm useless.
James managed to make it back to his truck, but when he picked up his phone to call 9-1-1, blood spilled down his arm, covering the touch screen and making it nearly impossible to use. After a few more attempts he was finally able to make the call. When the operator asked him for an address, all he could say was, “I’m behind Frank’s barn with the bright red roof.” Then he passed out.
The fire chief for the town of Brooks heard the call on the radio. He knew exactly which barn James was talking about and, as luck would have it, he happened to be driving right by. He pulled in, took one look at James and immediately knew he didn’t have much time. He grabbed a work glove and pushed it into the wound to help slow the bleeding. Then he gave the address to the dispatcher who relayed it to the local ambulance and fire departments and also requested LifeFlight.
When the flight crew arrived they were ready to start giving James blood immediately. This helped temporarily but they had to find a way to control the bleeding. They tried to clamp the severed vein but there was too much blood to even find it. The best solution was to apply pressure, a special quick clot bandage, and deliver him to an operating room as quickly as possible. However, the injury was so close to his windpipe that applying enough pressure to stop the bleeding was also making it difficult for James to breathe, not to mention the pain it was causing him.
The flight crew sedated him, placed a breathing tube and then continued to apply pressure to the wound for the 8-minute flight back to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. There, trauma surgeons were waiting to take James directly to the operating room where they could repair his severed jugular vein and finally stop the bleeding.
A few months later, a neurologist was also able to reverse some of the nerve damage, giving James partial use of his arm. It’s been enough to allow him to return to work in the woods. Perhaps just as important, he’s also able to get back to his favorite hobby—dancing. He started taking classes a few years ago, first swing dancing and then moving on to the ballroom and latin dances. He’s looking forward to dancing with friends again after the pandemic is over.
James is grateful to have survived a life-threatening injury and credits his recovery to the care he received, his healthy lifestyle, and to the support his family provided. He has four children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren who all played an important role in helping James get his life back.