November 8, 1998, was the second day of deer season here in east Texas. It was a nice, cool, cloudy, day, perfect for whitetail hunting. I drove to my deer lease and arrived at my stand at 4:00 p.m. I climbed the twenty-five feet to the seat and proceeded to make room for my camera and other hunting essentials, then made my way into the stand. I had just rebuilt the stand a month or so earlier but didn't replace a two-by-four that held up my camo net and the rope I pull my gun up with. After I climbed into the stand and sat down, I leaned over to grab the rope so I could pull my gun up. I put a little too much pressure on the board and it gave way from the tree and I went out head first! Luckily, I hit a limb on the way down and it flipped me enough so that I hit the ground on my hip instead of my head!
I wasn't knocked unconscious when I hit but I was unable to move! I did roll over on my stomach as soon as I hit and had to stay that way until I was rescued six and one-half hours later. I thought I had broken my back and it was probably two hours later that I realized I could move my toes, but I still knew I had done some bad damage to myself. The pain was excruciating and, unfortunately, I knew that I would not be missed for several hours. My wife realized something was wrong when I didn't come home that afternoon. She drove up to the lease to check on me, but was afraid to drive in for fear of getting stuck. She did the smart thing and called the Marion County sheriff. They arrived on the scene and the ambulance wasn't far behind!.
The ambulance crew were great and tried their best to make me comfortable on the one and one-half hour trip to Good Shepherd Hospital in Longview, Texas. When I arrived at the hospital, the orthopedic surgeon determined that I had broken my hip, pelvis and femur bone in my right leg to the extent that they could not repair it at that hospital. They stabilized me at Good Shepherd and sent me by ambulance the next morning to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas. By now I was a good 160 miles from home, my wife and my kids.
The doctors and staff at Parkland Hospital were wonderful and really helped me get through the ordeal. After all the CT-scans, MRIs, X-rays and multiple other tests, I finally made it into surgery so the breaks could be repaired. All told, I ended up with twenty-six three-inch long stainless steel screws and thirteen plates in my hip and pelvis.
I guess the moral to this story is either, if you hunt, never hunt alone, or, if you hunt in a tree stand, wear a safety belt. I never, ever dreamed I would fall from a deer stand! That's usually reserved for hunters who fall asleep in the stand! I fell so fast that I didn't even have time to think, so you just never know. This year my wife surprised me with a commercially built box stand that is only ten feet from the ground. I hope my luck will be better this year!
Written and experienced by Donnie Ponder