An Aiken County man who had a near-deadly accident two weeks ago is recovering today in his home, thanks to a quick response from rural Aiken County safety officials.
Kenneth Shull, 66, was working on a bench grinder in his son's shop just south of Salley on May 19 when the machinery malfunctioned, shattering the grindstone and hurling fragments all over the shop. The largest stone slab, about a foot in diameter, is believed to be the one that hit Shull in the throat, opening up an eight-inch gash and severing his facial artery.
Shull, bleeding badly and dazed from the blow, managed to call his son, Kendt Shull, telling him he'd been hurt and was going to die. Kendt, who was an hour's drive away in Columbia, called Paul Salley, the Police and Fire Commissioner in Salley, who immediately began coordinating the rescue efforts.
Less than five minutes later, Salley, Salley Police Chief J.D. Bledsoe, Fire Chief Gene Fogle and fireman Clint Brown were on the scene, helping Kendt's girlfriend, Melanie Williams, control the bleeding with towels. As Shull drifted in and out of consciousness, they quickly called in an ambulance from Aiken.
“It wasn't hard to tell that it was pretty bad,” said Salley.
After concluding there wasn't time to wait on the ambulance, they loaded Shull into the passenger's seat of Fogle's pickup and sped northward on S.C. Highway 39 toward the Wagener Fire Department, where most of the firemen have received first responder training.
Fogle radioed the Wagener Fire Department as Brown, sitting in the middle of the truck, attended to Shull's still-bleeding neck. Wagener Fire Chief Mark Redd, a paramedic, and Capt. Rich Sullivan met the group on the side of Hwy. 39 just south of Wagener. After a quick evaluation where he determined Shull had lost “a substantial amount of blood,” Redd called Aiken County Dispatch to request a helicopter, which his son, Rusty Redd – a paramedic on the ambulance speeding toward the group – had already placed on standby.
“He needed a trauma surgeon as much as he needed anything, so getting him to a helicopter was critical,” said Redd.
With the chopper on the way in from Augusta, Salley and Redd drove ahead to set up a landing zone at the A.L. Corbett Middle School football field in Wagener, and Fogle drove Shull to meet the Rescue 11 ambulance crew.
Rescue 11 determined Shull's injury was lethal, and gave Shull advanced life-support treatment as they carried him to the landing zone, where the chopper soon arrived to airlift him to Palmetto Health Richland's trauma center. Shull was in surgery for two hours, as his facial artery needed to be clamped off. He is expected to make a full recovery.
Salley estimates it took just 30 minutes from the time of the accident to get Shull to the landing zone, and that he made it to the trauma center within an hour.
“That's very good, especially for being as rural as we are,” Salley said, adding that the rescue was one of the highlights of his 35 years in the fire service. “You love to see things work like they worked that day.”
Redd, a 37-year veteran of the fire service, called it a “textbook” rescue.
“Communication was a big part of it – communication and coordination from start to finish,” said Redd, adding that getting Shull to a hospital within the hour was crucial to saving his life. “It's always a good feeling when you feel like you did the best you could and things turn out well.”
'Lucky to be alive'
Kendt Shull said the surgeon at Palmetto Health Richland told him his father was “lucky to be alive,” and that he had the quick response of his rescuers to thank for it. Apart from the gash on his neck, Shull also had severe bruising from his left ear to the top of his chest. Kendt said the surgeon was shocked the blow didn't break his father's neck or jaw, and that it could have severed Shull's carotid artery – a fatal injury – or left him paralyzed.
Kendt Shull said it's also a miracle his father was even able to call him. He said he left his cellphone at home on his way to work in Columbia that morning, and that he thought about just leaving it there. But something told him to go back to get it, he said. He added that it's amazing his father could even reach him on his cell, given the poor cell reception they usually get at the shop.
“God was definitely here that day,” said Kendt Shull. “There's no question.”
Shull was released from the hospital just two days after the surgery, and got his stitches and staples removed last Wednesday. Kendt said some of the rescuers periodically drop by to check in on his father.
“I can't express with words my appreciation to everybody for what they did,” said Kendt. “I'm overwhelmed with gratefulness for everyone involved.”
STAFF PHOTO BY AVERY WILKS Paul Salley stands in front of A.L. Corbett Middle School’s football field, which served as a landing zone for the helicopter that airlifted Kenneth Shull to Palmetto Health Richland on May 19.×