Shannon McTavish recalls the day when something as routine as mowing a lawn suddenly turned into a potentially deadly situation.
McTavish, who lives near Erskine, was simply moving her lawn in late April when she felt an odd and sharp sensation on the side of her neck. At first, she thought she had been shot.
Turns out, a small, thin piece of metal, two and one-half inches in length, had whipped out of the side of the mower and lodged in the right side of her neck.
Bleeding, she made her way to her nearby house and called for help – still unclear as to what had actually happened.
“I’ve been mowing this yard since 1996. I was doing my last back and forth run, when something hit me. I thought I was shot, and I could see there was blood. I shut the lawn mower off and staggered my way to the house,” she recalled. On the way there, she hit the corner of her truck with her shoulder, but made it to the stairs which led up to the door.
“I laid my head against the door, trying to get my phone off the clip. I stumbled into the house.”
She called neighbour Duncan McNeill, explaining she had been seriously injured and time was certainly of the essence.
“I felt normal, but they later said I was in shock,” she said. While she waited, she held a dishcloth against the wound to help control the bleeding.
“It seemed like it was seconds before Duncan got here.”
McNeill and McTavish immediately headed to the hospital in Stettler in McNeill’s truck.
“We drove to town and I made four phone calls on the way there,” she said, referring to making arrangements for her family. Soon, it was time to learn about the actual extent of her injuries.
“I told (emergency staff) that it was probably just minor – I might just need a couple of stitches. The nurse said, ‘Are you all right?’ I said, I’m fine – I walked in here,” she recalled with a laugh.
“Dr. Bailey, who I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him, came in and looked at me. He looked at my neck and said they were going to tie this off – he didn’t tell me what it was, but he said, ‘We are going to tie this off and stop the bleeding’.
“I had all these IVs hooked up on me by this time.”
She was soon told she would have a breathing tube inserted and that she would be sent to Calgary via STARS Air Ambulance.
“It took us 40 minutes to get from Stettler to Calgary,” she recalled. “I was in ICU for two days at the Peter Lougheed Hospital with a breathing tube.”
Surgeons inserted a section of a bovine coronary artery in her neck to replace her own severely damaged artery.
Ultimately, McTavish received about 40 staples and more than 700 stitches throughout the course of the operation.
Incredibly, it wasn’t long before the breathing tube was removed and McTavish was well on the road to recovery. Today, she still suffers from some nerve damage in the area.
Reflecting on the ordeal, she’s extremely grateful to everyone who helped her, especially McNeill who was first on the scene, Dr. Bailey in Stettler, Dr. Samus at Peter Lougheed Hospital in Calgary and of course STARS Air Ambulance who had her safely in Calgary in such an amazingly brief span of time.
Many throughout the local community have also been extremely supportive, too.
McTavish pointed out that there is no doubt she feels differently about things. The reality of how quickly one’s whole life can change is stunning, and this experience has driven that truth home.
“I live day by day now.”