Colo. boy nearly killed by bull thanks rescuers
The Greeley Tribune
Vail, CO Colorado
GREELEY, Colo. – While the ride that almost killed him remains a blank for 12-year-old bull rider Austin Beckner, it’s a vivid memory for the Station 1 team of the Union Colony Fire/Rescue Authority in Greeley.
“It was a heart-wrenching night for us,” said Lt. Roger Moore, part of a six-member crew which, by happenstance, was already at the Island Grove Events Center when Austin was stepped on by a bull. “Kids are just one of the things that get you, they just do.”
On Sunday, the team that worked frantically to keep Austin breathing and stabilized that day got to see what every emergency service professional lives for – the boy who was bleeding profusely from a head injury is now walking and smiling and talking. Austin and his family made the two-hour drive from Iliff, a town near Sterling, to visit and thank the people who saved his life on the evening of Feb. 27.
“If it wasn’t for them you’d probably be in trouble. Definitely be in trouble,” Wanda Austin told her grandson, his left eyelid still closed due to nerve damage, as he enjoyed a tour of the Station 1 firehouse.
Austin was four seconds into his second ride in the Mountain States Young Guns Rodeo when he was tossed from the bull and took two hooves to the head. The force blew off the rivets on the back of his hockey helmet and sent the shorn facemask scratching across his face, just under his right eye.
Jill East, Austin’s mother, was videotaping from the bleachers when suddenly she saw Austin fall off. Her brother, Chet Austin, Austin’s bull-riding coach, was next to the chutes and ran to the boy. She remembers seeing Chet’s arm saturated in blood as he waved for her to come down.
“I just saw this pool of blood and it just got closer and closer and closer to my feet,” East said. “There was so much blood. It was scary.”
Moore said, “I’ve seen a lot of traumatic injuries and that night it wasn’t looking very good” for Austin.
The Station 1 team had been called to the arena earlier that evening after another boy injured his arm, said Randy Sparkman, a paramedic and master firefighter. The rodeo had a medic unit, but no ambulance.
So the Station 1 crew was at the scene with an ambulance when Austin was stepped on. He had three skull fractures, damage to his right orbital socket and contusions on his cheek. He was bleeding from his ears, nose and mouth, Sparkman said.
“We had everybody there – the tools we needed,” he said. “We put him on a backboard, put a C-collar on his neck and transported him to North Colorado Medical Center.”
Austin was unconscious and blood was seeping into his airway, so the paramedics forced air into his lungs to keep the boy breathing. He spent about 100 minutes at the Greeley hospital before being airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Denver. He was in a drug-induced coma for two weeks at Children’s, had surgery on March 11, and finally regained consciousness on March 17. In all, he was hospitalized for 49 days.
Since then he’s had some short-term memory problems, but is otherwise recovering nicely, East said. She wasn’t sure how well off he was until she asked him, shortly after he woke up, if he remembered having his cell phone taken away. Just two days before the rodeo in Greeley, East revoked his phone privileges after Austin ran up a $600 bill.
“He smiled,” East said of his reaction to the phone question. “I knew he was back.”
The magnitude of that night still doesn’t seem to register on Austin, who on Sunday wore a black cowboy hat and hefty belt buckle as he cheerfully scoped out the fire engines with his two younger siblings. For the firefighters and his family, meanwhile, the signs of deep relief and gratitude were etched across every adult face.
“You don’t know how good it is for us to see you,” Moore said to East as they hugged.
“This was one of those calls where seconds really did matter we usually say that 1 percent of our calls are that way,” Moore said. “This is one of those things where the stars lined up just perfectly. If you don’t believe in divine intervention sometimes, run a call like this.”
Also Sunday, Austin’s family visited the trauma team that cared for him at NCMC and they looked at the helicopter that flew him to Children’s.
Austin, who’s been riding bulls for almost four years, has no plans to give up the sport. “I want to do it,” he said.
He added that it “was really cool” that Kody Lostroh, 2009 Professional Bull Riders World Champion and La Salle resident, came to visit him in the hospital. Coincidentally, it was just two hours after Lostroh left on March 17 that Austin regained consciousness. He’s also received many calls of support from other PBR riders, East said.
She and her parents effused thanks to the Greeley firefighters who likely saved Austin’s life.
“We were so lucky that we were here (in Greeley) rather than back home,” East said. “We didn’t have any time to spare.”