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Brainerd father's story of recovery, near death chain saw accident

It was a warm day in May last year when Mike Jay and his son, Cory Jay, were cutting down trees with a chain saw on property north of Merrifield. The father and son were cutting what Cory thought would be their last tree. Cory wanted to be done f...

Mike Jay (right), beside son Cory Jay (center) and son-in-law Ryan Obeidzinski, laughs and jokes while telling his story Wednesday during the North Memorial annual spring conference at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. But at the time it was no laughing matter. Mike Jay almost died after his arm was nearly severed in a chain saw accident about a year ago. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Video)
Mike Jay (right), beside son Cory Jay (center) and son-in-law Ryan Obeidzinski, laughs and jokes while telling his story Wednesday during the North Memorial annual spring conference at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. But at the time it was no laughing matter. Mike Jay almost died after his arm was nearly severed in a chain saw accident about a year ago. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Video)

It was a warm day in May last year when Mike Jay and his son, Cory Jay, were cutting down trees with a chain saw on property north of Merrifield.

The father and son were cutting what Cory thought would be their last tree. Cory wanted to be done for the day, but Mike said one more tree. That one more tree was a life changer.

"He was cutting and I was behind him and I felt the tree was coming down the wrong way," Mike said. "I reached out and shoved the tree and he didn't see me and lifted the saw and basically cut my arm off.

"(My right arm) was still partially attached and I literally grabbed my arm and he grabbed my armpit and we ran to the road."

It was May 22, 2016, and the Jays were cutting trees on property Cory Jay owned off Crow Wing County Road 4. Their purpose was to clear the property for a home Cory wanted to build, and which since has been built. Immediately after the accident happened, the father and son said they knew they had to get to the road, otherwise no one would be able to find them.

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The Jays shared their story Wednesday during the North Memorial annual spring conference at the North Memorial Air Care hangar at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. The conference is designed to meet continuing education for first responders, nurses and emergency medical technicians.

On the side of the road, Mike was bleeding heavily from the cut. Cory used Mike's sweatshirt to try to control the bleeding. Cory rolled a 3X sweatshirt to about the size of a football under Mike's arm pit and applied pressure.

"It's hard to describe," Mike said of what he was feeling right when the accident occurred. "I cut every nerve (all 33 of them) and I felt like someone punched me and it was a pretty good punch. It knocked me down."

The Jays thought at first they could drive to the Brainerd hospital, but realized that would not work. Their saving grace was Mike's son-in-law, Ryan Obeidzinski, who happened to stop by. Obeidzinski called 911 so Cory could continue to apply pressure to Mike's open wound.

"It seemed like an eternity," Cory said for emergency responders to arrive. The response time was seven-and-a-half minutes, Mike said.

"At first they couldn't find us because the house number ... had two locations," Cory said.

"I was getting really fuzzy," Mike said. "But there was a moment when I knew he got the bleeding stopped, it was like a switch. I was like we're going to make it."

"He was as cool as a cucumber," Cory said of his father before he was airlifted from the property by North Memorial Air Care. "Everyone says I am the one who stopped the bleeding, but he was level-headed the whole time. He said we need to get to the car and Ryan said he didn't know which one of us was bleeding because Dad was acting normal. ... There was a lot of blood, it was everywhere."

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"I lost the legal amount of blood to die," Mike said. "My worst memory was leaving (Cory) behind (when I was taken by helicopter). Him standing outside covered in my blood leaving. I looked out and that is my hardest memory to leave him there."

Mike said he didn't take any pain medication and he talked to his North Memorial Air Care staff Rosy Schanzenbach, the flight nurse, and Jeff Kalla, the flight medic, the entire flight to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. Mike said it amazed him when Schanzenbach called Cory to let him know they landed. He said he knew she was going to contact him, but not right away.

Schanzenbach said she called Cory about the landing and to tell him what an amazing job he did at controlling the bleeding. She said their job was to stop and control the bleeding and to get Mike to the hospital in a quick and safe manner.

"You can die from that injury very rapidly," Kalla said. "That artery is next to the heart and every time that heart beats it squirts blood and that was a concern of ours."

Mike said his doctors at North Memorial were amazing. He said the experience he received right when he got to the hospital was surreal and crazy as about 23 North Memorial emergency personal surrounded him when he arrived. His doctors were Dr. William McMillan, vascular and endovascular surgery; and Dr. Jonathan D. McCue, plastic surgery.

Mike spent four days in Robbinsdale and then was released home. He has been dedicated to his physical therapy. He sees Sara Carlson, an occupational therapist at Select Therapy, twice a week and works on the exercises every day.

"I wouldn't have this opportunity to work on Mike if it wasn't for all the care he received," Carlson said of North Memorial staff and Cory. "You guys did a remarkable job."

Mike said through it all he never thought he would die and always believed he would be able to move his arm. At the conference, while talking, he unstrapped his cast and moved his arm.

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"It's a journey," Mike said of the everyday work it takes for his arm to heal and feel movement. "There are struggles, but that is OK. I'm alive. ... My goal is to get it back to working condition."

"He's a man of steel," Obeidzinski said. "That is what everyone calls him."

"I'm glad the way it turned out," Schanzenbach said. "The movement of his arm is awesome."

Mike, who has kept a positive attitude and humor since the incident, said he enjoys when people ask him if he was right-handed.

"I tell them I used to be," he said as he lifts up his right arm in a cast.

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