TRUCKEE -- Ron Hunt, dubbed "Miracle Man" by friends, survived being impaled through the eye with an 18-inch-long, 11/2-inch-diameter chip auger drill bit.
While drilling above his head on Aug. 15, the six-foot ladder he was standing on started to wobble, said Hunt's nephew, Ben Hunt. "The ladder started to 'walk' on him," Ben Hunt said. "He lost his balance and threw the drill down -- which is normal for us (construction workers)."
Then Hunt fell off the ladder face-first and onto the drill, which went through his right eye and out his skull, just above his right ear. According to his nephew, doctors told Hunt the drill pushed his brain aside, rather than impaling it, which could have caused further -- and most likely vastly more extensive -- damage.
Hunt was taken by Care Flight to Washoe Medical Center in Reno, where Ben and his father, Chris, Ron's brother, met him in the emergency room.
"The nurses braced us for it before we saw him," Ben Hunt said. "It didn't seem real -- it seemed like a movie. I wasn't sure what to feel."
At that point the nurses had cleaned up Hunt, but the drill was still in. Still, Ben said his uncle was doing better than he expected. "He was talking, telling jokes," he said. "It didn't seem possible for him to be alive, seeing him with a drill bit through his head."
Corrin Keck, a friend of Hunt's, said other than loss of sight in his right eye, she has not seen any major effects. "At this point, we haven't noticed any problems with his motor skills and speech." She did say that he obviously is in some pain, but he is dealing with it.
In addition, Hunt has suffered "a little bit of nerve damage in his face -- his smile is a little different on that side," his nephew said.
Hunt was in surgery again Monday, getting titanium plates put in underneath his eye and on the side of his head, Keck said.
The hardest part, she said, is he was not insured for the job he was performing. He did have insurance, but for this particular job he was listed as a sub-contractor and was not covered under his insurance, according to his nephew.
Keck has begun to organize fund-raisers for his hospital bills, which are starting to accumulate. She said he already has a bill from Care Flight and the medical procedures he has gone through. Keck said she does not know how much the bills will amount to, but she hopes to simply help out.
In addition to fund-raisers, Keck set up the "Ron Hunt Medical Fund" at Bank of the West. Donations may be made at any Bank of the West.
Although the loss of sight and nerve damage is not to be taken lightly, Hunt's family and friends are looking on the bright side. The accident could have been much worse -- from major brain damage to death -- so they are thankful he didn't suffer more damage, his nephew said.
He will get an artificial eye, Ben Hunt said.
Hunt has not decided if he is going to return to work. "At first we didn't think he'd ever work again. He's thankful for his second chance," his nephew said.
And he thinks his uncle will be able to laugh about it someday. "It's just going to be one of those stories," Ben Hunt said. "He'll joke around with his glass eye and pop it out ...."
YOU CAN HELP
Donations to the Ron Hunt Medical Fund may be made at any Bank of the West location.