By ANDREA BROWN
The (Colorado Springs) Gazette
PENROSE, Colo. (AP) _ Go ahead. Call Chris Clear a pinhead.
Everyone else in town does.
“It fits me pretty good,” said the 19-year-old from Penrose who six months ago survived a freak accident with a garden tiller that shot a 2-inch metal pin into his brain.
What’s weirder is that he didn’t know he had the nail-like pin in his head until two days later, despite a trip to the ER.
He takes the “Pinhead” nickname as a badge of honor and displays it on merchandise.
Folks around Fremont County wear T-shirts with his brain scan picture. The gray X-ray image shows his skull with a long white pin.
The accident happened in April while he was helping a buddy steer an old rototiller.
“I felt something hit me in the face,” Chris said. “I thought it kicked up something like a rock.”
It came at him with bullet-like force, instantly causing a massive nosebleed and severe neck pain. Chris, an EMT and Penrose volunteer firefighter, was taken by ambulance to a Canon City hospital.
On his face near his nostril was a tiny cut — from the rock, it was assumed. He was sent home with a neck brace for whiplash and an appointment with a chiropractor.
For the next two days he had impaired vision and a really bad headache. Back he went by ambulance to the ER — and this time a brain scan showed the metal pin in his head.
“I heard them down the hallway say, ‘He has something in his head; he needs to get out of here,'” Chris said. “I was, ‘What the crap?'”
He doesn’t remember much after he was rushed to a hospital near Denver. During the nine-hour surgery, his parents braced for the worst.
His mom, Dawn, said it was like a Hollywood movie when “the double doors opened up, and here was this surgeon holding up the pin.”
The projectile had entered near Chris’ nose, then shot to the back of his head, missing several major arteries by millimeters and doing only minor damage to his optic nerves.
Chris was too drugged to remember his four days in ICU or his stardom as the patient who had a pin in his head.
When he returned for a checkup, he saw his pinhead X-ray on hospital computers. “They had it as their desktop,” he said. “It was pretty funny.”
The bizarre incident made national news, and the lanky, soft-spoken teen found himself in the spotlight, facing the public without his usual ballcap for protection.
He couldn’t wear a hat until the back of his skull healed from surgery. Nor could he drive his pickup for two months while his vision was returning.
During recovery, Chris, the second-oldest of eight kids, had plenty of company. “I got like 50 friend requests on MySpace in one day,” he said.
People he knew — and didn’t know — asked for images of the brain scan with the pin.
His mom set up a Web site to sell shirts, mouse pads and beer steins with the pinhead scan. Profits go to the Penrose Fire Department, where he’s back on the force and also working for American Medical Response.
There’s no scar where the pin hit, but when Chris pushes the spot his front teeth go numb.
He keeps the pin in his pickup to show those doubters who say, “I saw that on the news, and that’s not you.”
Not minding being called a pinhead should be proof enough.
On the Net:
Cafe Press: http://shop.cafepress.com/chris-clear
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
firstname.lastname@example.org :: 800-992-9447 :: Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.