Vahe Gregorian

Grateful Ned: Accident left Royals manager facing his own mortality

The grisly accident in some ways remains a haze in the mind of Ned Yost, really, with Yost uncertain exactly how his plunge began.

Frustrating to him, he won’t get to analyze the dynamics and forensics for months as he lives in a wheelchair to recover from what he calls a “shattered” pelvis and four broken ribs.

This much is clear, though:

If he hadn’t had his cellphone with him on Nov. 4 (with functioning cell service, he added) and been able to call his wife for help while he was injured and alone out on his farm in Georgia, “I would have died right there probably in a couple hours,” the 62-year-old Royals manager said Monday.

In fact, doctors would later tell him that these sorts of injuries result in death 25 to 30 percent of the time.

Instead, Yost expects to enjoy a complete and full recovery, one that no doubt will include renewed appreciation of his life after staring at his own mortality …

With plenty more upcoming time to think about it, as he doesn’t expect to be able to even use crutches or a walker for weeks.

“I’ve got two pretty big rods and some plates and some screws holding my pelvis together, so you can imagine there’s no position that’s comfortable to be in right now,” he said in a conference call. “I don’t think I’ve left this lounge chair since I’ve been home for more than five minutes in two days.

“Just try to find a spot where I can kind of relax and take a deep breath and try not to move for 10 hours.”

Sure beats the alternative, Yost knows, adding later that he’s glad to be alive … and even glad he can feel the hurt.

Not that he grasped the implications right away.

“I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation until I was through it,” Yost said.

As a former catcher, Yost has a high pain threshold.

It was tested in a new way.

After the tree stand on which he was adjusting and securing a lifeline abruptly gave way “like a hangman’s gallow,” and Yost tumbled 20 feet to the ground, he knew he “hit hard” but figured he’d catch his breath a moment and then get moving.

Even when he realized he couldn’t “move an inch” and sensed a problem in his pelvis, Yost was more conscious of being able to wiggle his toes and move his arms and head as he called his wife, Deb. He lay there waiting some 20 minutes for rescue workers and her to turn around from a drive to Alabama she’d just begun.

No doubt in shock, Yost thought it was strange when they told him a Life Flight helicopter was on its way.

Why would he need that?

Sure, “the pain was unbearable” and “it was a little scary” as they carried him some 70 yards to where they could put him on the helicopter and fly him 23 minutes to Grady Memorial Hospital.

In the trauma center, he didn’t catch on even when they told him his blood pressure was so low they couldn’t give him pain medicine for what they were about to do: drill a hole in his leg and insert a pin with two 10-pound weights to create traction for his side, and then get him into compression pants.

In increasing agony, Yost finally said, “‘Look, this is killing me. You guys are killing me.’”

Just the opposite, it turned out, with Yost in critical condition.

To “‘save your life,’” a doctor told him, “‘we’ve got to do this.’”

Yost had lost seven or eight units of blood, he said, and doctors were desperate to stop the bleeding.

Only after surgery the next day did Yost and his wife get a true sense of how dire it had been.

“‘You guys don’t know how lucky you are,’” a doctor told them, noting the mortality rate for the injury and adding, “‘Your fracture was so significant, you were losing blood to the point where we couldn’t stop it. You were starting to crash. We were losing you.’”

Suddenly, Yost said, he felt a whole lot better. More seriously, he’s had time to take some stock since.

He’s sure glad he had his phone, he’ll tell you, recalling all those times he’d been out in similar situations and realized he had left it behind.

He’s confused by what happened, swearing that he “did everything right” and repeatedly talking about how safety-conscious he is — including that he was wearing his safety belt when he reached toward the tree to start adjusting a lifeline an inch or so.

Instead, he came within an inch of losing his life.

So he wonders … Did a strap break? What gave way? Why did the stand fall the way it did?

As for the bigger-picture questions, Yost isn’t prone to sentimentality and mustered a little joke to deflect that some.

He told Deb that God must figure “‘I should become a better listener. So I get to sit and talk to you for three straight months now. Without moving. I got no place to run, no place to hide.’”

They both had a good laugh about that, he said — probably more than they might have otherwise after what so easily might have ended in tragedy, and surely will resonate the rest of Yost’s life.

Vahe Gregorian is a sports columnist for The Star: 816-234-4868, @vgregorian