CASPER, Wyo. — The medical staff that cared for Jeff Irene, the Casper man dragged underneath a car for more than a mile, initially treated him like a burn patient, one of his doctors said Wednesday.
The December 2007 incident ground away skin and tissue on the left side of Irene’s body.
That forced his doctors and nurses to constantly guard against infections, Dr. Richard Jaouen explained at a trauma and disaster management conference in Casper at which new details of Irene’s treatment were revealed.
Jaouen and two other medical providers spent an hour recounting how they cared for Irene, who suffered major chest injuries. Irene also attended the talk and said that while he has improved, he still suffers from chronic pain and arthritis.
“He is getting better and better, but he’s obviously not the same guy as he was before his accident,” said Jaouen, a plastic surgeon based in Casper.
Irene suffered his injuries on Dec. 30, 2007, when a Chevrolet Tahoe struck him in the Sandbar Lounge parking lot. He ended up under the Tahoe’s axle and wasn’t discovered until it reached an Oak Street home.
Irene told the audience that he remembers little from the incident except for yelling for the Tahoe to stop while he was underneath the vehicle.
He also prayed.
“I’m going to hang on for all I’ve got,” he recalled thinking.
Paramedics found Irene talking but incoherent. He was bleeding and laboring to breathe.
At Wyoming Medical Center, doctors quickly performed an operation and discovered he had a broken pelvis.
“This was an emergency surgery, a life-saving surgery, so it did what it was supposed to do,” Jaouen said.
“It saved his life.”
For the first two weeks, the medical staff contended with several problems. The dragging had essentially left Irene with a 15 percent surface body burn.
He had a large chest wound that started near his waist and ran to around his armpit.
The staff used part of Irene’s latissimus dorsi muscle — located in the back, below the shoulder — to fill his wound. They also worked to remove all of the dirt and grime that had entered his body as he was dragged underneath the Tahoe.
Doctors grafted skin onto his abdomen from other parts of his body.
As he recovered, new issues developed. For a reason that doctors don’t fully understand, pieces of bone began to grow inside Irene’s body.
Further surgery was needed to remove them.
Irene returned home 131 days after the dragging. But the surgeries continued. In all, he underwent 36 or 37 operations.
He will always have scars on his chest and some of the skin on his abdomen remains discolored. He still undergoes therapy for his physical and psychological injuries.
“You really never got over an accident like this,” Jaouen said. “This lasts forever.”
Irene told the audience he was blessed to have the doctors he did.
“Thank God they are hard workers,” he said.
Speaking afterward, he said his body is probably at 60 percent of what it once was.
But he also said he’s able to play golf again — one of his passions in life.
“That is what I live for,” he said. “That is what I love to do.”