COLUMBUS, Ind. — The first day of school on Aug. 6 included more drama than Columbus East High School could have imagined.
In a sudden emergency, a pair of students gave first aid to a classmate and likely saved his life.
Clayton Smith has both his arms wrapped in bandages and full of stitches after an accident Friday while playing touch football outside the cafeteria during lunch.
Smith said he was running for a touchdown along the school building, almost to the imaginary goal line, when he took a slight bump from a two-hand touch. He reached out to support himself and both arms went through a window.
"My first thought pretty much was, 'Oh Lord! I'm going to get suspended. I just broke a window'," said Smith, sitting on a couch in his older sister’s home in Columbus.
He didn't get suspended, but Smith won't be going to class for a while. He severed the tendons at the knuckles on his fingers on his left arm. He cut completely through the main (brachial) artery near his right elbow.
"I knew I was going to, like, have some slight cuts on my hand,” recalled Smith. “I didn't know how severe. I look over and my muscle is out of my arm. It wasn't a pretty sight, and I started running around the field screaming, jumping up and down."
Two fellow sophomores calmed Smith and put a sweatshirt tourniquet on his badly bleeding right arm until the ambulance arrived.
"Two specific students were able to help potentially save his life as well as his limb, and they did exactly what they needed to do,” said Josh Burnett, communications coordinator for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation. “They moved quickly, took action and we're so glad that they were there at the right time."
Smith knew the girl who helped him. She was in his freshman Japanese class. He believes the boy who also assisted is new to the school. What does he want to tell them both?
"Thank you so much,” Smith said. “Me, my family are all very grateful for what you did. You're obviously not medical professionals, but you did exactly what needed to be done on the spot."
The accident happened on Smith's 15th birthday.
"If they would have acted 15 seconds later, I wouldn't be talking to you right now,” Smith said. “They saved my life. And at the end of the day, I owe them my life."
Smith was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital, then transferred to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for more specialized care. Doctors reattached the tendons, nerves, and blood vessels during three hours of surgery Saturday. Smith expects to eventually regain complete mobility in both arms and hands.
Right now, though, he can’t use either hand. He has to drink through a straw and needs someone to feed him.
13News is not identifying the student heroes because we were not able to contact their parents for permission. The school and Smith’s family hope to formally recognize the pair after everyone has had time to process the traumatic event.
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