NORMAN — A 45-year-old Norman man, who lost both legs after being struck by a train early Wednesday, is making a strong recovery, his mother said Monday.
Mitchell Hammons was struck by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway train about 3:15 a.m. Wednesday in the area of Symmes Street and the tracks’ intersection.
“(Mitchell) is the talk of the hospital — everybody is saying he should have bled out in 5 minutes, he’s ‘the boy who lived’,” said Hammons’ mother, Marilyn Casetta. “So many hospital staff have said they don’t know how he could survive so much blood loss.”
Casetta said Hammons accidentally stepped in front of the train while walking home, and did not hear the train approaching because he was listening to music on headphones.
“He felt the vibration of the train approaching and attempted to run, but because he wore a heavy leg brace from a knee injury or because he was panicked, he tripped and fell and couldn’t clear the tracks in time,” Casetta said.
Miraculously, Hammons maintained consciousness and was able to pull himself away from the tracks, in spite of having suffered the loss of both legs. He was ultimately hospitalized at the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
“So many people did extraordinary things that night to save Mitchell’s life. We are especially grateful to the engineer who radioed for help and we would love to thank him in person if possible,” Casetta said.
Since the accident, Hammons has undergone four surgeries to amputate both legs above the knee, but Casetta said he has made a very fast recovery and maintained such a positive disposition that he is a popular presence among hospital staff and patients alike.
Originally expected to stay in intensive care for two weeks, Hammons was released after only two days, and is using every opportunity to imbue the situation with humor.
“Mitchell has been answering the phone as ‘Lieutentant Dan’ from Forest Gump and constantly making puns about ‘not having a leg to stand on’,” Casetta said, laughing. “He told me, ‘I’ve decided I’m just me with shorter legs’.”
Casetta said Hammons’ and his family’s biggest concern at this point, aside from continued success in recovery, is letting everyone know he is alive and well, both physically and emotionally.
“We wanted to make it very clear to everyone — Mitchell is not dead, he’s recovering very well, and this injury was an accident not an attempted suicide,” Casetta said.
Hammons is already anticipating the challenge of regaining mobility through prosthetics, focusing on the positive aspects with the support of his family.
“My son has been in near constant pain for 10 years as a result of the knee injury which had him in a brace. Since that’s no longer an issue, he won’t be suffering that pain anymore,” Casetta said. “He told me he’s excited that he’ll be able to run again.”
Caitlin Schudalla 366-3541 cschudalla@ normantranscript.com