Zach Harmon likely would have died

September 02, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

Scott Coffman was working on a truck in his garage when he heard a commotion out front. When he looked up, he saw his neighbor Zach Harmon standing in the door way clutching his left arm at the biceps. When Harmon turned slightly, Coffman could see the wound.

"I could see that he was cut pretty bad and then he just fell over," Coffman said. "He was holding it, but when he fell, it just started coming out of him in streams. You don't live long when you're losing blood like that."

If it weren't for some quick thinking and action by Coffman and customer Jamie Pemberton, Harmon's life's blood likely would drained out Friday at S & P Service Station. Instead, Harmon is on the mend, and his mother is still overflowing with gratitude.

"What these two men have done has renewed my faith in humanity," Connie Shotts said Wednesday. "These were the men who saved him and gave the doctors a chance."


Harmon, 17, was home alone and moving the glass top from a patio table when he tripped over a bunched up rug and lost his balance. The glass struck the table frame and shattered, slicing diagonally across his biceps through a main artery, nerves and muscles down to the bone.

Harmon said he realized he was badly cut but remained calm. He started to go in the house to call 911 himself, "but I didn't want to get blood on the carpet." So, he slowly made his way over to the garage next door instead.

Once Coffman saw him and realized the severity of the situation, he quickly ran inside, grabbed a bunch of shop rags and threw them at Pemberton, who was waiting for his truck to be repaired.

"There's a guy out there who's bleeding bad. You gotta take these rags and stop the bleeding or he's not going to make it," Coffman told Pemberton as he raced to the telephone to dial 911.

Pemberton, who could not be reached for comment, applied pressure against the wound and tied a tourniquet around Harmon's arm above the wound. Pemberton's mother said he tried to keep Harmon calm and reassured him that he would be OK, despite the tremendous loss of blood. By the time Coffman returned to Harmon, the bleeding had stopped and he was talking again.

"We just tried to keep him still and cool and awake," said Phillip Coffman, Scott's father and partner in the garage, who had by then arrived on the scene. "We didn't want him to go out on us. He was in bad shape."

He underwent 4 1/2 hours of surgery

An ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later -- "It seemed like an eternity," Phillip Coffman said -- and took Harmon to Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, where he was stabilized before being airlifted to the University of Kentucky Medical Center. There, he underwent 4 1/2 hours of surgery that included removing a vein from his leg to replace the severed artery in his arm and repairing nerve and muscle damage.

"They lost his pulse there for awhile and they were afraid he was pretty well gone," Shotts said. "His arm had turned black as tar. They said most people who lose that much blood don't survive."

After visiting a plastic surgeon Tuesday, Harmon said that he hopes to regain some use of his arm through lengthy physical therapy, though he doesn't know if he will ever regain use of his hand or have much sensation in his arm.

Harmon described the accident as "a big eye-opener." Prior to Friday, he said he "took life at full speed" without worrying about the consequences. He had, he admitted, "a reckless attitude" toward life.

"I've been in a lot of bad situations. I've always been accident prone and never did think things through," he said.

"I didn't expect to lose my hand, but because of that, I realized how lucky I'd been. Now things are fragile. Now I think I need to get my life back together and calm down."

Shotts likes to think her son had some help from above. The Coffmans had only opened their business a month ago. Had they not been there to help Harmon, he probably couldn't have made it to his next nearest neighbor's house. "The Lord works in mysterious ways,' Shotts said.

Scott Coffman said he doesn't believe he and Pemberton did anything out of the ordinary, they were just in a place to help when they were needed.

"I can't imagine somebody not helping another person in that situation," he said. "I'm just glad he's OK. That's the main thing. You never know. The way we work over here, I may have an accident one day and need him to help me."

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