Grand Junction landscape worker gets back on his feet after brush with death

By all accounts, Josh Gill shouldn’t be alive today.

The people who saw the 23-year-old landscape worker after a freak accident Oct. 21 thought he was a goner, from the neighbors who raced across the street and used a chain saw to remove a tree branch from his neck and helped him breathe, to the paramedics who raced him to the hospital, to doctors who placed Gill in an experimental treatment.

Gill was barely breathing, had turned purple and looked as if his neck was broken after it was pinned to a large branch while he was atop a riding lawn mower.

He arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital in a coma with his brain so swollen doctors couldn’t tell whether he had brain injuries.

But when Gill, who lives in Fruita with his wife, Bethany, and their 5-month-old baby girl, Bella, left the hospital after a week there, he had little more than a scratch.

“I’d rather just go back to mowing again,” Gill said Tuesday from his home, restless about getting back to work again. “It’s weird being at home in the middle of the day.”

Gill was hospitalized for exactly one week, and after a few more medical tests today, he should be cleared to return to work.

Gill said he doesn’t even remember going to work Oct. 21 and getting on the riding lawn mower to do maintenance work at an apartment complex at 1600 Rood Ave. in Grand Junction.

Gill has worked for Mesa Turf Masters for a year, but he is a certified sprayer and only mows lawns during the colder months when seasonal employees are cut back.

Josh and Bethany went to the apartment complex Monday to try to recreate the scene. They took away the branch that got caught up on his neck and “will do something with it,” Bethany said.

Josh Gill said he must have used his right hand to push the branch away from his face while looking down to the left to miss an electrical box near the tree trunk. His right hand would control the throttle and stop the lawn mower. But the branch, which was at least 6 inches thick at the base, was too stout to push away, and the lawn mower kept going, applying pressure onto his neck, restricting his breathing.

“I don’t know anything about it,” he said about recalling the events. “It’s nice that I don’t have any trauma, but it sucks that my wife had to see everything.”

When she got the call that her husband had been injured, she raced to the hospital thinking Josh would be released in a day. But the weight of the situation started to sink in when she was met by two chaplains in the emergency room.

Doctors told her if they didn’t do anything, her husband would die. They wanted to try a hypothermia therapy used mainly for cardiac arrest patients. Doctors lowered Josh’s temperature to 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours and warmed his core up slowly. Doctors said Josh had three days to come out of the coma if he was to live. By Friday afternoon, Josh opened one eye and gave doctors a thumbs up.

“The doctors were like, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s not supposed to be responding this soon,’ ” Bethany recalled. “If nothing else, maybe this treatment can save other people’s lives.”

Josh and Bethany feel as if the prayers from up to 300 people, including friends, family and complete strangers who contacted them during that time, helped Josh’s recovery.

The incident has added more meaning to their Christian faith, and they would like to meet and thank the neighbors who rushed to Josh’s aid.

Josh has a tattoo on his back that says, “If I perish, I perish,” which is attributed to Esther in the Bible, proclaiming her Jewish faith, even if it meant her death.

The irony of the tattoo isn’t lost on Josh.

“I put my faith in God,” he said, at home with family. “If I’m here, I’ve got stuff to do. If not, God’s done with me. He’s obviously not done with me.”


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