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Stars align for dirt biker impaled on tree branch in Teller County

June 12, 2018 Updated: June 13, 2018 at 9:28 am
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Flight nurse Ami Bess and flight paramedic Matthew Bergland visit Eddie Kerr after surgery and show him pictures from the accident. Photo courtesy of UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central.

Eddie Kerr was dirt-biking on a remote trail recently when he ran into a tree, and a branch as big as a baseball bat impaled his neck.

Kerr was caught in the tree like a fish on a hook, until his feet found his fallen bike, giving him a perch from which to lift himself off the tree and onto the ground.

One of his companions applied pressure to the wound.

Others hurried to find an area with cell service and call for help.

"I basically thought I was done," Kerr said Tuesday. "I said a small prayer and said goodbye to my friends. ... I looked at the way two branches crossed above me and thought, 'This isn't a terrible way to go.'"

He said he was surprised by how extraordinarily quiet the moment was.

But Kerr, 42, had wise, fast-acting friends and a protective vest with a neck brace.

The vest deflected the branch from his chest and lower neck, then into the right side of his neck, nearly piercing through his back.

Paramedics soon reached him on ATVs offered by bystanders.

With his traumatic wound, the Colorado Springs resident likely couldn't have survived an ATV ride out of the remote North Divide Trail System in Teller County.

Flight nurse Ami Bess reenacts rescuing Eddie Kerr while flight paramedic Matthew Bergland and Kerr watch. Kerr said it was awesome to be reunited with the team that rescued him from the trail, adding “they’re the reason I’m here today and can go home with my wife.” Photo by Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick  

But a helicopter arrived and rushed him to a hospital.

When Tammy Kerr got a text that her husband was on his way to a hospital, she said she didn't worry.

Her daredevil partner of 10 years often wound up in hospitals, so there was no rush to get to what likely was yet another broken bone.

She said she stopped to give their dogs a treat.

"I was walking out the door finally, and his buddy called and (said), 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, it's bad, it's real bad," she said.

When she grasped the severity of the situation, she said, she felt "a weird hot, tingly feeling" and wave of nausea.

At the hospital, a day later, the couple finally got to talk.

When she remarked on the number of tubes attached to him, he said, "It's because I'm cyborg ..." Eddie Kerr still could laugh.

He "is very lucky on multiple accounts," flight paramedic Matthew Bergland said without a hint of irony.

"Sometimes the stars all align, and that's definitely what happened for Eddie," said flight nurse Ami Bess, who was on the helicopter with him.

A hand demonstrates the size of branch that impaled Eddie Kerr at the scene of the accident. Photo courtesy of UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central. 

Eddie "carried a lot of the tree with him," said Dr. Greg Day, the trauma surgeon who operated on Kerr at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central.

Doctors cleaned out the tree pieces, performed four surgeries, and Kerr said he was discharged after only a week.

"This is the height of trauma season right now," Bess said. "Everybody's out, everybody's doing stuff, and people get hurt doing all their fun activities."

They should have protective gear and basic first-aid knowledge and supplies, she said.

Kerr says he feels blessed to survive. After indulging in extreme sports since age 4, he said, he's ready to give golfing and fishing a try.

"So he has a bad wound, wounds that will heal with time, and a story to tell," Day said. "Thankfully he'll get to tell that story."

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