A McMinnville man who cut his arm off in a horrific chainsaw accident Tuesday afternoon has been released from the hospital and is recovering.
“I’m thankful to be alive,” said Aaron Gondolfi in an interview with the Standard on Friday.
The following information is graphic.
On Tuesday, Gondolfi was at 124 Kennedy Circle in the Mt. Leo area working with an uncle, Nathan Payne, to remove a tree. The limb he was cutting snapped, hit his chainsaw and caused him to let go of it. The chainsaw completely removed his left arm above the elbow, sliced his left leg and cut the safety harness that would have kept him from falling.
Although reports on that day varied from 15 to 30 feet, Gondolfi confirmed he was 30 feet in the air when he fell.
“I remember the chainsaw cutting through the safety lanyard that held me to the tree. I’m thankful that I fell. I know that sounds weird. If the chainsaw hadn’t cut the safety lanyard that held me to the tree, no one could have reached me in time. I would have been dangling 30 feet above the ground, and I would have died there. Yes, I’m thankful that I fell. On the ground is where I needed to be so people could help me.”
Gondolfi’s memory of the incident is minimal.
“I don’t remember falling. I remember I woke up a little bit in the ambulance. I woke up a little bit in the helicopter. I woke up a little bit at the hospital on the OR table. I don’t remember much of anything in between the chainsaw cutting my safety lanyard and waking up after surgery.”
What he can’t remember, his sister Cassandra is striving to forget. While his uncle used compression to help slow the bleeding, she called 911.
“I’m having a hard time dealing with the picture in my head of him lying there on the ground,” said Cassandra. “What really messed me up was when the 911 operator said, ‘You’ve got to find the arm and pick it up.’ I found it, but I couldn’t touch it. I saw the hand there. It was too much for me. Here’s a person I’ve known my whole life. Someone I love. That hand wasn’t supposed to be 8 feet away from his body.”
The arm was bagged and iced by emergency responders with the hope it could be reattached, but that could not be achieved.
“At some point I want a prosthetic,” said Gondolfi. “I have to go through physical therapy and get some movement into my left shoulder. I’d like a fully functioning prosthetic. Not sure how much that would cost, but someday I hope to have one. My leg will be OK. They stuck the muscles and tendons back together using some sort of mesh.”
Before the accident, he was living in Warren County just off Womack Street. Today, he is recovering at his parents’ house in LaVergne after being discharged from Erlanger on Thursday night.
“They told me that I would need 15 to 25 days in the hospital, but I told them that would not happen. They sent me to physical therapy and asked if I wanted to try walking. I got up and walked so they let me go home. I’m not the type to sit around and do nothing. I’ve got to keep going.”
He realizes the outcome could have been much different and he might not be alive today without the quick work of first-responders.
“I’m thankful for a lot of things,” said Gondolfi. “I’m thankful that my uncle was there and applied pressure on my arm. I probably wouldn’t have survived if he hadn’t. He held it until police, EMS and fire could get there. I’m thankful for all those individuals. I’m thankful for the nurses and doctors at Erlanger. They were great.”
A GoFundMe account has been established by his sister, Jacquelyn Gondolfi, to raise money to assist in Gondolfi’s dream of a prosthetic. That can be found at www.gofundme.com.