Paramedic Cameron Padbury

JASPER, Alabama [October 12, 2014] – For a few hours Saturday morning, Cameron Padbury wasn’t sure he would ever see his three young children again.

A paramedic for 18 years, it wasn’t the first life-and-death situation the 37-year-old Jasper man found himself in. But it was, by far, one of the most unusual, and one with potentially explosive consequences.

For eight hours and in close quarters, Padbury kept vigil beside his 62-year-old patient, a man with a 40mm practice grenade lodged in his thigh.  Padbury and other paramedics in the parked ambulance outside of UAB’s emergency room were told to keep the patient as still as possible or they might not live to see another sunrise.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking. It was an intense experience,” Padbury said. “From what they were telling us, if he moved the right way it could go off and we could all die.”

Padbury, the Walker County supervisor for Regional Paramedic Services, was one of several to take care of the man inside the ambulance while experts decided how best to resolve the problem.

Authorities praised the paramedics, along with the U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialist, who would eventually remove the grenade from the victim’s leg. The practice grenades, experts said, will fire and travel up to several hundred meters.

“The Jasper paramedics stayed with the guy all night and saved his life,” said Dave Hyche, a Birmingham supervisor with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “Had it been a high explosive, it could have taken that ambulance apart.”

“It was extremely heroic,” Hyche said. “Nobody knew this wasn’t live. Removing it could have easily killed everyone there.”

Padbury recounted the more than eight-hour ordeal for AL.com.

It began when Regional Paramedic Services received a call from Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper saying they had a patient with object in his leg and he needed transfer to a Level 1 trauma center. The patient, whose name hasn’t been released by authorities, had been driven to the hospital by a private vehicle.

“I think my first response was, ‘You called me here and he’s got explosives in his leg?”’ Padbury said.

When paramedics arrived, the man told them a 40 mm grenade went off while it was in his lap. “He thought it was a novelty round,” Padbury said. “He was taking it apart. As he was twisting, the gunpowder ignited and shot into his thigh.”

The hospital had taken x-rays, and workers there believed it was only the casing or shrapnel embedded in the man’s thigh. “We felt like he was critical because he had a large object in a dangerous place, it was close to a lot of arteries,” Padbury said. “I decided to ride with the crew because his blood pressure was low and it was going to be touch-and-go.”

Padbury and other paramedics didn’t initially see the wound. It already had been treated with a pressure bandage to control the bleeding. Walker Baptist notified UAB to set up the trauma transfer.

As they neared Birmingham, paramedics called UAB to tell them they were about 10 minutes away. That’s when they found out there had been a change of plans.

“They had a BPD bomb tech look at the x-ray and he said he was confident it was the actual projectile,” Padbury said. “You could tell it was the actual grenade.”

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