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Young Arizona man who lost his arm in a construction accident thanks Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Level I Trauma team

May 15 is National Trauma Survivors Day

(PHOENIX - May 15, 2024) - A young Yuma man is grateful for the trauma team who saved his life at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix after he tragically lost his arm in a construction mining accident last summer.

“My life forever changed the day I lost my arm,” said Blake Thomas, 20. “But, I am alive today because of the St. Joseph’s trauma team who continue to care for me and encourage me in my recovery.”

It was a typical Monday morning for Blake as he started his daily responsibilities at his family-run construction supply company on July 17, 2023. Blake, who despite his young age is a well-respected leader on the job site, was called to help clear a pile-up in a feeder used to crush rock that has been pulled from the earth.

“I grew up around this machinery, and immediately took multiple safety measures to shut down the equipment so our crew could clear the pile-up,” said Blake. “The protocol is ingrained in me.”

Blake then climbed into the feeder and was using both hands to clear rocks from the machine’s conveyor belt when he suddenly heard the wind of the motor. The feeder had turned back on.

“At that moment I had to make a split-second decision,” said Blake. “I knew I was either going to lose my arm, or sever my neck as the conveyor belt began to move. Right then, I knew losing my arm was my only chance at surviving.”

Blake lost the bottom and middle portion of his right arm, his dominant hand, in the accident. He was quickly able to pull himself to a safe area where he used his left arm and teeth to secure his own belt around the wound, using it as a make-shift tourniquet.

The other members of his crew called 911 and Blake was rushed to a local Yuma hospital before being airlifted to the Level I Trauma Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s for lifesaving care.

“I was awake the whole flight,” said Blake. “I thought it was pretty cool because I had never been in a helicopter before, but reality hit when I touched down in Phoenix.”

Trauma surgeon at St. Joseph’s, Jordan Jacobs, MD, and his team met Blake on the hospital’s helipad and brought him straight to the operating room.

“When Blake arrived at St. Joseph’s, he had lost enough blood for his condition to be considered life threatening,” said Dr. Jacobs. “Blake’s makeshift tourniquet played a huge role in making him stable enough for transport, but he desperately needed a blood transfusion as we worked to stop the bleeding.”

After Blake’s first procedure, Dr. Jacobs met his devastated parents and discussed what Blake and his family could expect next.

“Dr. Jacobs came out and he was so comforting as he tried to console us,” said Cristy Thomas, Blake’s mother. “Dr. Jacobs told us Blake was going to be OK, just a little different. He brought such a calming reassurance to Blake’s care, and we thank God every day that he was the one treating our son.”

Over the next 29 days, Blake underwent a series of four additional, staged operations to control the bleeding, clean out tissue and clear debris from his wound, and formalize the amputation above the elbow called a transhumeral amputation. 

“I was so impressed by Blake’s positivity while he was at St. Joseph’s,” said Dr. Jacobs. “This young man had just endured such a traumatic change in his life and yet his resilience never wavered.”

Blake was discharged from the hospital on August 14, and one week later he was back at work pouring concrete. These days he is still adapting to his new normal while also continuing to do things he loves like hunting with his dad and attending Northern Arizona University where he is majoring in construction management.

“Looking back on the last year, there aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am for Dr. Jacobs,” said Blake. “He talked to me like I was more than just his patient. He truly cared about me. Every time he walked into the room, I could breathe a sigh of relief. I am so grateful for him and the entire trauma team at St. Joseph’s and hope my survival story can give hope to others in my shoes.”


Publish date: 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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Abby Kay, External Communications Specialist

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