Imagine waking up in the middle of the night unable to breath. Your throat has swollen shut, and absolutely no air is getting into your body. What would you do?
Call 911? There’s not enough time. Give yourself CPR? Good idea but it wouldn’t solve this problem. Grab a knife? Bingo.
That was the first instinct of Steve Wilder when this exact scenario happened to him in 2008. The then 55-year-old man woke up to find his air passage had completely swollen shut and did what he thought was the best way to save himself. He ran to the kitchen, grabbed a knife and performed a tracheotomy on himself.
For anyone who doesn’t know what a tracheotomy is, you can check out an animation of what the surgery looks like here. It’s basically cutting a hole at the front of your neck to create an alternate air passage.
Since these are typically done in surgery or at least by another person, the fact that Steve Wilder did it to himself while most likely panicking from the lack of oxygen makes this even more impressive.
In the third post of our series documenting how knives save lives, we see that tragedy can strike instantly at any time.
On July 19, 2009, even a routine drive became a frightening life or death situation for one family, after their SUV flipped on its side and burst into flames in Milwaukee, Wis.
Inside the car was a mother and two small children. Fortunately, the mother was able to escape with one of the children, but the second, D.J. Harper, was trapped inside the burning vehicle.
As you can seen from the footage below, the people watching were trying but failing to get the boy out and the SUV was rapidly filling with smoke and fire.
Remarkably, the wife of a firefighter was walking by the scene, so she called him to come down. Within a minute brothers John and Joel Rechlitz, two off duty firefighters, arrived at the scene and took control.
Even though they were getting burned, they bravely peeled back the shattered windshield and saw that then 4-year-old D.J. was strapped in by his seat belt. The first thing that popped into their head was to get a knife to cut him out, but that day they weren’t carrying their pocket knife as usual.
Whereas some of the previous examples about how knives have saved a person’s life prominently feature amputations, the man in this story used a knife as a weapon for self-defense. What he was defending himself against, however, was a huge black bear.
In 2006, Tom Tilley, a then 55-year-old outdoorsman from Canada, went on a 12-day canoeing trip with his trusted dog Sam. While walking on a trail about 4 days into the trip, he came across a 200-pound black bear.
Annually there are between 1 and 2 bear attacks a year, so this isn’t really an uncommon experience. So, Tom did what you are supposed to do when you encounter a bear, he waved his arms and slowly back away.
Nevertheless, the bear was hell-bent on attacking and continued his march toward Tom. He described what happened next to the CBC news:
After watching the film 127 Hours about Aron Ralston and posting on the astonishing case of doctors having to amputate a man’s legs with a Swiss Army knife, I became fascinated with the concept of life-saving knives.
It’s no secret that knives are extremely helpful in everyday life, but there are also many examples when carrying a knife has saved someone’s life or prevented them from being significantly injured. Occasionally, I’ll be posting examples of these gripping tales I find around the web.
Although not all examples of knives saving lives involve amputations, the story of Sampson Parker was so amazing that it’s the first story we’re looking at.
Sampson Parker, a farmer from South Carolina, found himself in a terrifying life-or-death situation a little more than three years ago when a corn stalk became lodged in his giant mechanical picker. He mistakenly tried to get it out with his hand, which was instantly sucked into the machine.
His first idea was to simply pull as hard as he could until his hand would get loose, even if it meant literally pulling his hand off. Unfortunately, that’s when the situation turned even uglier.