Quick decision saves boy after dangerous fall


by Rob Nelson / Eyewitness News rdnelson@wwltv.com


Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:02 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 22 at 12:23 PM

MONTEGUT, La. - 13-year-old Austin Irvine was helping his father unload scaffolding from the top of a pickup truck when he took a fall that easily could have ended his young life.

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Standing nearby, his father saw his son plunge headfirst several feet onto the ground below.

Austin got up and seemed fine, but out of an abundance of caution, his father took him to Chabert Hospital in Houma just to be safe.

What doctors saw caused them to act swiftly. They recognized that Austin had a skull fracture and his brain was swelling.

Austin doesn't remember much.

"I remember going to the truck, going to hospital and getting into the wheelchair and going down the hall, and that's about it," he said.

Austin had what is known as an epidural hematoma. It is the brain injury that made headlines earlier this year when actress Natasha Richardson died after a seemingly innocent fall on a ski trip.

Irvine was rushed by ambulance to New Orleans to the trauma center at the LSU interim hospital. Doctors said they knew they didn't have much time.

"This kid was going to herniate," said Dr. Edward Halton. "That means he would have died."

Austin underwent emergency surgery as doctors relieved pressure from his brain and were able to save his life. In fact, Austin's recovery went very quickly. After a couple of tough days in the ICU, he returned to school just two weeks later.

"Basically, he came back on the first day," said Michelle Lapeyrouse of Montegut Middle. "I think he checked out the first day, but he basically came back and was in full swing."

The scar on Austin's head is still visible, but he has quickly returned to his normal life.

"It felt really good because I knew they (his family) would take care of me and be by my side."

His father realizes that quick action saved his son and he that hesitation might have proven fatal.

"If I had brought him home and just let him sleep, he would not have woke up."