LAS VEGAS (AP) - Thirteen-year-old Ayren Perry's dance with death began on a Norman Rockwell painting kind of day, one where sunlight shining on smiling faces promises the innocent pleasures of youth.
So it was, shortly after noon last Oct. 27, as Ayren rode a BMX bicycle down Rolling Cloud Drive with his friend George in the Craig Ranch area of the north Las Vegas Valley.
Ayren and George were laughing about something, he doesn't recall what, as they headed down the street.
"It was a beautiful day," the home-schooled eighth-grader said last week as he stood in the road where he had biked. "We were just having a good time."
That was until, to avoid a tennis-ball sized rock, he swerved.
"I missed that one and ended up hitting one about the size of a football," Ayren said.
It took just a second, maybe two. Ayren spilled his bike. He landed on top of his handlebar, impaled on the right grip.
When he pulled the handlebar out of his abdomen, he watched the blood spurt out and run down the gutter toward his home a block away.
By the time he arrived by ambulance at the University Medical Center Trauma Unit at 1:10 p.m., he had lost nearly all of his five quarts of blood.
His heart stopped soon after he was wheeled in. And it would stop again after Dr. Jay Coates - the same surgeon who saved magician Roy Horn's life in 2003 after he was dragged offstage by a tiger - cut open Ayren's chest to massage his heart by hand.
On May 14 at Palace Station, during the annual UMC Trauma Center luncheon, Ayren and Coates will share their stories of how they met, of how life overcame death on that October day.
"It means a lot to all of us to get together with our former patients," Coates said last week as he and his medical team gathered with Ayren and his father to produce a video for the event.
"Even though we were there, sometimes these things are hard to believe, and we don't see these people again until the luncheon," which is attended by many Trauma Center survivors.
"Ayren had a 1 to 2 percent chance of surviving, and then the next day he's up in bed wanting to watch video games and indicating he's hungry for a hamburger," Coates said. "Let me tell you: It's astonishing that he's back to normal."
Nobody agrees with that assessment more than Ayren's dad, Anthony.
He remembers how George ran into his house and told him Ayren was bleeding bad. And he recalls how he jumped in his car, wearing only his sweat pants, and drove to where Ayren was lying in a driveway.
"He kept saying, 'Dad, I'm sorry. Dad, I'm sorry."'
Seeing the big hole in Ayren's groin, he pressed it with a cloth in an effort to stop the bleeding as he frantically called out to neighbors to call paramedics. One neighbor ran over with a blanket in an effort to shield father and son from the sun.
"I had tried to walk home, but I got dizzy and had to sit down," Ayren recalled of how he and his father waited for the ambulance. "There was so much blood."
So much blood that Anthony already had begun to worry that even if doctors could somehow keep his son alive, he'd be brain dead.
"I really thought he might be in a diaper the rest of his life.
Your brain has to have blood," said Anthony, an engineer who stays
home to teach his two children while his wife, Kristina, works at
International Gaming Technology.
Coates said Ayren wouldn't have made it if he had arrived even a minute later at the Trauma Center. As he waited for the ambulance
to arrive, Coates said he did what he always does: recite what he
says many rescue workers now call "Shepard's Prayer."
Named for the first American astronaut in space, Alan Shepard, the prayer is a rendition of what the bawdy fly boy was overheard saying by mission control as he waited for liftoff: "Please, God. Don't let me (expletive) up."
A couple of minutes after the boy's arrival, Coates, working with a 15-member medical team, had cut open Ayren's chest in the resuscitation room. Coates started massaging Ayren's heart with his hand.
He clamped off the aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the left ventricle of the heart to branch arteries, for 20 minutes. That was so the nearly two dozen units of new blood that were being pumped into Ayren intravenously would initially just go to his heart, arms and brain. If blood were to go to his lower extremities at this point, the brain could go too long without blood; five minutes without it would basically have left Ayren in a vegetative state.
Though Coates said he usually gets an adrenaline rush doing trauma surgery, he admitted getting tired on Ayren's case.
"I must have massaged his heart for 40 minutes, and my hand got tired and cramped up, so I had to let someone else take over," Coates said.
Nurse Tracy Thomson found herself with Ayren's heart in her hand
as the team wheeled the boy from the resuscitation room to the operating room.
"We had to shock him directly on the heart with paddles over and over to get a regular heartbeat, too," Thomson said. "Sometimes you have to use electricity to jump-start the heart into working right again."
Epinephrine, a drug used to treat cardiac arrest, also was shot directly into the boy's heart.
At first, Coates had a difficult time finding what he needed to fix internally in Ayren. After cutting into the abdominal area, Coates found much of it full of blood.
"I had to scoop it out and put it in a bucket," he said. "It looks like grape jelly."
Coates made an incision in the right side of Ayren's groin. He saw the iliac vein had been severed by the handle bars. That vein supplied blood to Ayren's right leg. Coates tied it off and didn't bother trying to repair it.
"The body is incredible," Coates said. "I knew that the body would grow some more veins to supply the blood."
Less than two hours after Ayren arrived, Coates and his team had done all they could. They had revived his heart, repaired the hole
in his abdomen, and tied off the vein that had been spurting blood.
Coates told Ayren's parents he wasn't sure whether the boy would
make it through the night.
"I knew Ayren was in God's hands then," Coates said.
Two weeks after he was hospitalized, the 5-foot, 3-inch, 150-pound boy was out of the hospital.
Ayren was on blood thinners until last week, when his new veins were at the point they could supply blood to his right leg.
Ayren appreciates what the medical team did for him.
"I really like riding my bike again," he said.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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