TRUCKEE -- Ron Hunt, the "miracle man" who fell on an 18-inch long, 11/8-inch chip-auger drill bit and lived to tell -- and joke -- about it, has received international attention.
So much so that he has hired a public relations company and launched www.ronhuntmedicalfund.com.
Truckee-based Switchback PR was brought on board to create the Web site, handle the phone calls from the media -- about 10 per day -- and help raise funds to pay for his medical bills.
Following an Aug. 27 story in the Sierra Sun, a Truckee newspaper, Internet surfers flooded the Sun's Web site and media from around the world scrambled to hear or read the story of Hunt's accident. Newspapers, radio and television programs -- including NBC's "Today Show" and ABC's "Good Morning America" -- have latched onto the story.
Hunt's story appeared on the "Today Show" and Hunt appeared live via satellite on "Good Morning America." The Associated Press published a story a few days later, which made it to newspapers across the country. Also, Hunt will soon be appearing on the Maury Povich and Montell Williams talk shows, according to Switchback president and owner Brinn Wellise.
Radio and television stations as far away as England and Germany have contacted Hunt.
"I'm totally surprised," Hunt said in an interview in his Truckee home, where he is recuperating. "It's a challenge. I'm trying to put everything in perspective."
He said his friend, Corrin Keck, was handling the media, "but she has her own job." He said he brought in Switchback because it deals with these matters every day. However, he said, "I give her so much credit for getting where I'm at now."
He said Switchback is working on setting up the talk shows, and he will start hitting the circuit soon.
On Aug. 15, Hunt was drilling above his head when the 6-foot ladder he was on "kicked out" from below him. Before he knew it, the drill was on the ground and he fell on top of it.
The bit went through his right eye and exited his skull above his right ear. The lost one eye and suffered nerve damage in the right side of his face, which he said will never return.
Amazingly, Hunt stood up after the accident to get on a gurney, and then lifted himself to transfer over to a Care Flight helicopter gurney.
"It's a weird pain. It wasn't like a sharp pain, like if you step on a nail. A nail would hurt worse than this," he said.
In the emergency room at Washoe Medical Center, Hunt said, the surgeon, Dr. Paul Ludlow, started to cut the bit off, but found it would be easier to twist it out. "It was getting so loose, he just pushed it on through," Hunt said while twisting the drill next to his head.
Since the accident, he has remained in good spirits and still likes to joke about it. "I was showing [the drill] to someone the other day and I hit my eye. Maybe it's time to start practicing on the other eye," he said.
Hunt also said he is thankful for Ludlow and his eye specialist, Perry Waggoner. "I'm so lucky to have doctors like them," he said. Waggoner is trying to figure out a way to reconstruct his eye socket, so that it will hold an artificial eye.
The story and the published X-ray spawned discussion around the U.S., including many who thought the story was a hoax. Users of the Web site www.fark.com -- which sent more than 30,000 users to www.sierrasun.com in just over 36 hours -- started an online discussion, some who expressed empathy for Hunt, and others who shunned it as fiction.
One user, chris7553, wrote, "I've been an X-ray tech for 15 years and I could smell something rotten right away ... There is no damage to the bone structure, the line of injury is through the maxillary sinus and not the orbit and the entire drill bit would be white, no shading in the turns. But, hey, I'm not a doctor, and you'll have to get your results from him. It's a great story, though, and a nice attempt at duplicating the injury."
Other commentary consisted of "ouch," several pun-intended jokes saying Hunt got "screwed" and many random bits of knowledge.
Hunt still has to go through a few surgeries and follow-up doctor visits.
Hunt said he did not have insurance and because he was a subcontractor for the job and the company he was working for does not have to provide workers compensation.
He says he wants to return to work, and won't let the loss of one eye get him down. He said he will enlist the help of a fellow construction worker who has been working for years with the use of one eye.
"Mentally, I'm all set," he said. "My mind's clearer now. It's been cleansed with all that's happened."
As for his incredible luck _ that he did not suffer brain damage or even death -- he said, "I guess I'm doing something right, by somebody's standards."
YOU CAN HELP
To donate to the Hunt Hunt Medical Fund, visit any Bank of the West, or visit www.ronhuntmedicalfund.com