Man impaled with garden shears through eye socket recovers


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An 86-year-old Arizona man is lucky to have his eyesight -- and luckier to be alive -- after doctors at the same hospital that treated U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords extracted a pair of pruning shears from his head.

Even the doctors who treated him are amazed at the lack of permanent damage.

Leroy Luetscher was treated at University Medical Center in Tucson, the same center credited with saving Giffords’ life in January. The Arizona congresswoman had been shot in the head by a gunman as she met with constituents outside a supermarket.


Here’s what happened in the latest incident, according to details revealed at a Tuesday news conference and by the hospital:

Luetscher was gardening in the backyard, trimming some plants, when he dropped his pruning shears, point side down. As Luetscher leaned over to grab the shears that had lodged in the dirt, he fell on them, face first. One of the handles shot through his right eye socket and lodged itself in his head.

“I couldn’t believe it. I just could not believe it. I sort of pulled on them -– it seemed real solid -- so I just left it alone,’ he said during the news conference to discuss the injury.

Luetscher said the searing pain actually helped him keep his wits about him. He said he put a T-shirt over the wound to help stop the bleeding and told his long-time live-in girlfriend to call an ambulance.

Today, the Green Valley resident has swelling to his eyelids, and some double vision, but is otherwise fine. He expressed gratitude to University Medical Center and the team of trauma surgeons and specialists who helped him, including Drs. Julie Wynne, Lynn Polonski and Kay Goshima.

Polonski, an ophthalmologist, said the team made incisions underneath Luetscher’s right upper lip and his sinus wall, allowing medical workers to loosen the handle of the pruning shears with their fingers. ‘Once we were able to loosen it up, it went fairly easily,’ he said.


Doctors rebuilt Luetscher’s orbital floor with metal mesh, and managed to save his eye.

‘You wouldn’t believe your eyes,’ Wynne said. “Half of the pruning shears was sticking out and the other half was in his head.’

‘You just wonder how the handle of the pruning shears got there. The handle was actually resting on the external carotid artery in his neck,’ Polonski added. ‘We are so happy that Mr. Luetscher did not lose his eye or any vital structures.’

Doctors said so many things could have gone wrong -- a ruptured eyeball, a severed artery, a fatal infection.

‘You know, if it went a little bit in a different direction, it basically could have killed him or he could have had a stroke,’ Polonski said.


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--Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

The Associated Press contributed to this report.