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Lessons in survival, awareness and bravery. The Damien Merchant story.

 One lesson learned from 20-plus years in law enforcement is - Your life can change in a heartbeat, often in devastating fashion. Such was the case on Sunday, June 18, 2023 - which just happened to be Father's Day.

My wife, Linda, and I were at home in Errol, New Hampshire that morning while a 2-man crew from Brad's Tree Service were grinding stumps in our front yard. All Hell broke loose as Brad Montague ran to our front door yelling, "Call 911. Call 911!".

The next thing I saw was Brad's worker, young Damien Merchant, lying motionless next to our driveway. I raced to Damien's side as Linda called for an ambulance - and as Brad had wisely requested - a lifeflight helicopter. Damien had accidently walked past the stump grinder too closely, and the grinding wheel had latched onto his lower-left leg. The damage to his leg was profound.

The "lesser" damage had been done to Damien's lower-left knee. There was a very-deep laceration, and the bones were visible. But the massive damage was to the lower leg itself. A stump grinder is not a cutting machine. It is designed to destroy tree stumps. 

The stump grinder had done its work, but not on its intended target. The machine had broken both lower-leg bones and literally shredded the soft tissue. Brad and I wrapped a towel around the major wound, and the bleeding (thankfully) stopped quickly. Doing no further harm is always the goal with the victim of a destructive accident, so we kept Damien still and as calm as could be expected.

Help arrived quickly in the form of the Errol Rescue Squad. They were a welcome sight and performed their job with meticulous skill. After stabilizing his leg, the crew lifted Damien iuto the ambulance and transported him to the hospital in Colebrook - awaiting the arrival of the helicopter which was to transport Damien to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire - where he remains eight days after the tragic accident

The initial analysis on Damien's condition was that he may lose his left leg. But the medical team at Dartmouth-Hitchcock reasoned that the leg could be saved but many surgeries would be needed to restore the limb to near-total viability.

After a recent birthday, Damien Merchant is now 19. The lessons are vivid. This incident could very-well have been fatal. He could have lost a limb. Your life can change in a heartbeat, often with devastating results. Your brain is your best weapon for survival. Being aware of your surroundings is paramount. But I can not overstate the bravery of this young man in such a state of intense pain, gut-wrenching fear and worry over his future.

I have instituted a GoFundMe fundraiser for Damien and his grandmother to help with medical-and-living expenses. The goal is $10,000.00, and within only one day more than $1,600.00 has been raised. Please think about donating if you are able to do so. You can find the link below:


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