Teen impaled by tractor spear meets firefighters who saved his life

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Sledding accident in February led to one-in-a-lifetime rescue operation

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WREG) – A recent meeting at a Tennessee fire station was a chance for 18-year-old Sam Reid and his parents to say thank you to the first responders who saved Sam’s life.

To understand why the reunion was so spectacular, you have to go back to February 2021. It was a week of record snowfall in the Memphis area.

Sam and his friends were out of school and decided to go sledding behind an ATV in a field.

“My buddy, he had went before me. He said, ‘Dude it’s a lot of fun, you ought to try it.’ I said alright, so I hopped on it,” said Sam.

But something went terribly wrong.

“I looked over and I saw the tractor,” said Sam, referring to a tractor that was sitting in the snowy field. “I said, that is awfully close. No, something ain’t right.”

The sled, with Sam on it, headed straight for the tractor, which had two long steel spears attached, the kind used to pick up bales of hay.

Sam’s body slammed into the tractor and onto one of the spears.

“I felt it in the back of my head because it was touching my skull under the skin. I knew I was stuck,” he said. “It just felt real uncomfortable. Kind of like a burning sensation.”

Sam doesn’t remember much of what happened during the crash. But the 15-pound spear pierced into his side and came out the back of his head.

First responders rushed to the field.

“I saw something that we really weren’t prepared for,” said Quinton Johnson, a firefighter paramedic with the Shelby County Fire Department.

Those firefighters got straight to work to save Sam.

“We needed to get some air in him to breathe, so we set him up on oxygen. We got IVs flowing,” Johnson said. “We are the ones that stabilized his neck, held his neck stable.”

Meanwhile, Sam’s parents, who were out of town, got the call their son was hurt and instantly started the five-hour drive home.

“We went for two hours not knowing what exactly had happened. Was he OK or not OK? I just kept asking, ‘Is he gonna survive? Is he gonna survive?’” said Todd Reid, Sam’s father.

Rescuers didn’t want to move Sam too much, but had to get him unhitched from the tractor without moving the spear near his vital organs.

“We had to make sure we kept his neck still, because any movement to the left or the right, the spike could have entered his heart or his spinal cord,” said Johnson.

They tried several tools before finally using a cut-off saw to cut the spear from the trailer, leaving part of it inside Sam.

“We had about 6 to 8 inches to work, to get that large tool in between where it was on the tractor to where it was at the edge of his clothing. We had to be able to get the blade in there from where he was to cut him free,” said Ernest Ty Larry, who was driving one of the Shelby County Fire Department trucks that day.

They used water to keep the spike from overheating and catching Sam’s clothes on fire.

No helicopter was available, so Sam was transported to the hospital by ambulance, where doctors got busy removing the steel rod.

By the time Sam’s parents made it to hospital, their son was out of surgery. They finally heard just how bad it was.

“It was very scary. He had lots of things attached to him. Bells, whistles, monitors, fluids. He had a neck brace,” said Christie Reid, Sam’s mother.

Sam’s father said he was astounded his son survived.

“The spike was edged up against his heart. It barely missed his heart. It missed his spine. Missed his jugular. It’s just a miracle he could survive that,” he said. “I am just so grateful for these guys, their skill, talent and expertise that saved him.”

After three surgeries and 34 days in and out of the hospital, Sam recovered and even graduated from Arlington High School in May, getting back to the things he loves to do.

But one thing on his list was meeting the firefighters who saved him months earlier.

“I can’t thank them enough at all. They saved my life,” said Sam.

The reunion was also exciting for the first responders, as they usually don’t get to meet their patients.

“This is probably one of the first calls I have been able to see the results of the work these guys put in on scene,” said Shelby County Fire Department Fire Chief Ron Royal. “And all I can say is I am glad to have all of these guys working with me.”

Sam Reid, 18, meets the Shelby County firefighters who saved his life. One of them is holding the tractor spear that went through Sam’s body. (WREG)

The firefighters’ life-saving deeds haven’t gone unnoticed. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee presented them with the “Three Stars of Tennessee Award” for their heroic actions.

Back in Shelby County, all of them were recognized by their department for what they did that snowy day in February.

It’s something that makes them all believe in miracles.

“I have been a firefighter for 24 years. I have seen a lot of things, but never, never anything like this,” said Larry.

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