SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KSL) – Like many 12-year-old boys, Abe Tullis plays soccer and practices the piano. But unlike other kids his age, an accident thwarted Abe’s health, and he is lucky to be alive.
Abe was thinking of starting a summer yard-work business with his friends and needed a little practice. He hadn’t mowed the lawn before, so on June 4, he set out to trim the grass of his family’s home in Midway. After mowing one row, the unthinkable happened: A loose nail in the grass got caught up in the blades, which propelled the 2 1/2-inch nail into his chest.
Abe described the pain as “kind of like stinging but like a bruise.”
“I just heard the lawnmower stop, and then I heard him yell out,” said his father, David Tullis.
David Tullis didn’t think the injury was serious until he pulled up Abe’s shirt to get a closer look. The head of the trauma unit at Heber Valley Medical Center suddenly realized the situation was grave.
As I pulled the shirt up and watched him breathe, as his chest expanded the nail pulled in a little bit and it looked like it could be deep,” David Tullis said.
He yelled for his wife, Myndie, to meet him at the car.
“His color was changing, his eyes rolled back and he was having a real hard time breathing,” she said.
Abe said he remembers looking up at his mother and feeling confused. For a moment, he thought he might be dying.
“That was for like, five seconds and then I was like, ‘No, I’m going to make it. I’m good,’ ” he said.
At the hospital, X-rays showed just how serious his situation was. The nail had entered the left ventricle of Abe’s heart and was resting against the interventricular septum .
“I just lost it. I knew we had to get that helicopter and get him down to Primary (Children’s Medical Center),” David Tullis said.
Following a 12-minute helicopter ride to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake, surgeons rushed him into open-heart surgery. They stitched around the heart and nail, creating a drawstring that closed the hole once the nail was removed. Throughout the operation, Abe’s heart never stopped beating.
Doctors said that had the nail been shorter, Abe likely would have bled to death.
“It was still plugging the hole that it went through and he was able to form a clot around that, and I think that is what saved him,” David Tullis said.
His parents are calling his luck and recovery a miracle. After rehabilitation and healing from his surgery, Abe is not expected to have lingering effects from the injury.
“A couple days later he was dancing in the halls of the hospital trying to do the running man,” Myndie Tullis said.
While he is playing soccer again, Abe has put his yard-work business plan on hold. The Tullises said they have no idea where the nail came from, and that Abe won’t be mowing the lawn any time soon — they’ve hired a landscaper.