NORMAN, Okla. – Aug. 8, at 3:15 am, Mitchell Hammons was walking home from seeing a friend.
He had earbuds in, the music turned up full blast.
As he crossed the railroad tracks at Symmes in Norman, he says he felt the vibration.
“I tried to run off the tracks and I slipped and by the time I looked up again, train,” Hammons said. “The last thing I remember is I yelled help.”
When Hammons fell, his legs were over the tracks.
The train ran over his legs, severing both of them around the knee.
“He had pretty much lost his whole blood volume when we got here,” EMSTAT paramedic Tonja McCawley said. “He wasn’t really responding, wasn’t breathing well, didn’t have any color to him.”
McCawley and fellow paramedic, Gary Martin, worked to save Hammons’ life.
First order of business, they put tourniquets on his legs to stop the bleeding.
“It takes just minutes to lose all your blood, if it’s actively pumping out through your arteries,” Martin said. “You have very large vessels in your legs so applying tourniquets is probably what helped save his life.”
“I didn’t believe he would live, I really didn’t,” McCawley said.
They took Hammons to Norman Regional Hospital where he got four quarts of blood and one quart of plasma.
Then they went on to OU Medical Center where he was rushed into surgery.
“The injury was so devastating that we had to eventually do above knee amputations bilaterally,” OU surgeon Dr. William Ertl said.
Hammons underwent nine surgeries in 19 days.
His mom said she was told he’d spend six weeks in intensive care.
But the day after the accident, he was moved out of ICU.
“Every hour he was getting better,” Hammons’ mom, Marilyn Casetta, said. “The nurses and the doctors said they’d never seen anything like it. He was getting better every hour at the rate it would normally be two or three days.”
She said from the very beginning, Hammons had an incredible attitude.
“He says, ‘I’m really just me with shorter legs.’ I said, ‘You are son, you’re you with shorter legs,'” Casetta said.
Hammons then spent a short amount of time in rehab and breezed through that quicker than anyone imagined.
He said he’s come out of the experience a different man.
“It’s just different,” Hammons said. “Everything’s different to me now. I don’t look at everything the same way.”
He also came out of the experience an engaged man.
“I said, ‘Will you marry me,'” his girlfriend, Sally Hill, said.
“She says, ‘I got to ask you something’ and then she got down on her knee,” Hammons said.
Since Hammons can’t get on one knee, his girlfriend did.
She made him an engaged man for the first time in his life.
On his 46 birthday, a mere two months after a train chopped off his legs, doctors are talking to Hammons about prosthetics and being able to walk again.
“He’s a motivated man,” Dr. Ertl said. “And he’s an ideal patient in the sense of I’ve been presented with a very devastating life changing injury but life goes on.”
“I don’t know what there is when God touches you and you come that close but you know that you’ve got something you’re still here to do,” Casetta said.
Hammons said while he doesn’t know what it is, he knows he has a purpose.
What may be practically life ending for someone else, is not slowing him down.