Brantley football player tells of life-changing accident
Published 11:16 am Thursday, October 13, 2016
By: Katie Silva
May 20, 2015, was the day Brantley High School senior Jermany Salter’s life changed. It started out like any normal day, the football team had their last spring practice and head coach, Ashley Kilcrease, was hosting a pool party for all of the football players to celebrate.
Salter and a group of teammates went to drop off another teammate on Carter Road, when the day took a turn for the worst. Salter was in the back of a pickup truck with teammate Brandon Frazier when the driver of the truck hit a bump losing control of the wheel, causing the truck to fishtail and slam into a bank. Salter was thrown from the truck into two sets of barbed wire fence.
“We weren’t even three fourths of a mile from our teammate’s house when it happened,” Salter said.
He knew it was hard to swallow and breathe when it happened but didn’t realize the severity of the situation until he reached for his neck and saw the blood running down his hand and arm.
A teammate, Garrett Barksdale, was following behind the truck Salter was in and pulled up on the scene right after Salter was thrown from the truck. Barksdale’s quick thinking is what saved Salter’s life.
Barksdale got the younger teammates out of his vehicle so they wouldn’t see Salter then helped Salter into the truck, putting a towel around his neck, and rushed him to Crenshaw Community Hospital in Luverne.
Salter’s mother Annie said, “Doctors told me that if Garrett would have waited a minute longer, that they wouldn’t have been able to save him.”
Salter’s condition upon arriving at the hospital did not look favorable since he had a very weak pulse. He was losing blood quickly due to an eight-inch-long gash on his throat, and he couldn’t breathe due to both lungs collapsing.
“I knew once they told me I couldn’t go back to see him that they had lost him, but the doctors worked hard on my baby,” his mother said.
The staff at Luverne’s hospital called three different Life Flight services, trying to get Salter to Montgomery’s Baptist South for better treatment, yet none would come due to the severe weather. Luverne emergency doctors stabilized Salter enough to make the hour long ambulance ride up to Montgomery.
Looking back now, Annie said she is grateful for the fact none of the Life Flights came due to the weather. Once he arrived at Baptist South, Salter received over 150 stitches, two chest tubes for his lungs, was put on a ventilator and had a heavy dose of antibiotics to fight off infection caused by the barbed wire.
The first word of Salter’s condition was told to his parents six hours after the accident occurred, at 12:30 a.m., with more than 40 family and friends who made the drive up to Montgomery to be there.
Salter was in a medically induced coma for 10 days, during which he lost 41 pounds due to not having a feeding tube.
“Over the course of the 10 days Jermany’s condition slowly improved,” said classmate Katie Silva.
“I knew he was going to be okay when I went to see him on the fifth day and I played his favorite songs, ‘Poison’ and ‘I Want You Back’. He squeezed my hand for the first time and his heart rate picked up.”
Salter’s family had an amazing support system from their community. So many people came to see him that the family went out and bought a journal for everyone to write something in when they came to visit.
By the tenth day, Salter was taken off the ventilator and was breathing on his own, semi-alert.
“First thing he did once he was semi-conscious was move his hands in a weird pattern,” his mother said.
“We figured out he wanted a pen and paper, so we got the journal and he wrote us that he loved us.”
The next three days were spent making sure he was stable and regaining his strength. Twelve days after the accident Salter was able to return home. During the entire process, the community had raised money to help the Salters with their expenses.
The Turman and Silva family stayed up at the hospital every few days so Salter’s parents could go home and help their second youngest son, Doug, move into his dorm at Troy where he is playing football.
The family said, “We were so thankful for those who stayed up at the hospital with Jermany so we could go home to take care of issues there.”
But that wasn’t the end of their long journey. After not even two weeks of being released from the hospital, Annie noticed something wasn’t right with his breathing. They called their family doctor, who referred him to another doctor who could help them further.
“No one seemed to be able to help him. We played phone tag before I finally had enough,” Annie said. Salter was finally referred to an ENT, Dr. McCray, in Troy. He told Salter that he needed to go to UAB as soon as possible and set an appointment for July 13.
“I knew he needed to be seen earlier than that,” Annie said.
“I knew he wasn’t going to make it to that date.” Salter’s breathing continually worsened.
That night Salter was forced to sleep in the floor of his parent’s room so his mother could keep an eye on him. When Annie woke the next morning she woke Salter up and told him to get dressed. They were going to the emergency room; his breathing had gotten much worse overnight.
Not even thirty seconds later, Salter came back to his parent’s room telling his mom, “I feel the same way I did the day I wrecked.” Annie hurried to put her clothes on.
“Fifteen seconds later, I heard the worst noise I hope no other mother has to experience,” Annie said.
“A gurgling noise came from his throat. It sounded like he was drowning.” She rushed Salter to the car, calling her sister-in-law. Annie wanted her sister-in-law to call 911 and explain everything about Salter to the operator in case Annie herself couldn’t due to nerves.
Annie rushed to Brantley, arriving at the rescue squad in three minutes. Not even two minutes later they loaded Salter up and were on their way to Crenshaw Community Hospital.
Annie was told by one rescue squad member that they had lost Salter during the drive up and had to bag him. The emergency doctor on staff, luckily, knew how to put in a trach line.
They had to suction out Salter’s throat due to him drowning in fluids. The staff got him stable until Life Flight got there, and Salter was flown straight to UAB.
One nurse at Crenshaw Community Hospital told Salter’s family that she never expected to see him walk back through that door alive.
While at UAB, Salter had to get a trach line put in, and was told he would have to have it the rest of his life. Since then, he has had 18 surgeries and had an amazing team of doctors working hard to get him back to the point of playing sports.
Salter said the healing process has been really good but missing sports and not being able to sing was the hardest part.
“My teammates made it easier. They showed love, kindness and support throughout the whole process,” Salter said.
The team held multiple fundraisers to help the family with expenses and many teammates came to see him when he was hospitalized.
Salter said it was great being able to play again after being told he’d never be able to again. He appreciates everything more knowing life could be taken away from him in a second.
Salter is a senior and is hoping to get a football scholarship to further his football career.
“I’m definitely going to make wiser decisions,” he said.
“I’m going to be more cautious.” Salter’s advice to others that may have been in his situation or those who haven’t experienced something like this is to not take life for granted, because you never know when it’ll be taken away from you.
His biggest regret is getting into the back of that truck. He warns people to always be safe in a vehicle, that it may not seem like it but the back of a truck is dangerous.
Nancy Turman, friend of the family, said, “The thing that stands out the most as a mom was that even though his journey has seemed unending, he and his family had never shown the first sign of bitterness or despair.”