Luke Brittain was in a workplace accident earlier this year. He returned to work just in time for Thanksgiving.
JACKSON TWP. Luke Brittain has a lot to be thankful for today.
Brittain, 22, of North Canton, returned to his job this week as part of the grounds crew at Kent State University at Stark.
A workplace accident seven months ago almost made that impossible.
On April 29, Brittain was using a stand-up mower to cut the grass on the side of a hill near Dressler Road NW. It was drizzling and the grass was wet. Brittain was trying to mow as close to the culvert as possible to avoid going back with a weed trimmer when the mower clipped the concrete.
He struggled to keep the machine from going into the ditch and it flipped. He jumped off in time, but in an effort to stop himself from heading face-first into the blades he threw out his hand.
“I felt fine,” he said, recalling the accident.
That is until Brittain reached for his phone to call for assistance and realized his hand wasn’t going into his pocket.
His dominant left hand was nearly gone -- severed almost entirely just above his thumb.
“My first thought was, ’I’m not going into the gym today, that’s for sure,’” he said.
Brittain ended up at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital. A 14-hour surgery later, his hand was reattached.
The hospital staff called him “the 14-hour kid,” said his mom, Angela Brittain.
“We are very, very blessed he is with us,” she said. “As you know, these types of mower accidents don’t have happy endings.”
The family credits Luke’s Carhartt jacket with saving him and blocking his body from additional serious injuries.
Brittain has had several follow-up surgeries and many physical therapy sessions to continue healing and regain movement to his hand.
His mobility is still limited but this week he was given clearance to return to a job he loves.
“I’m definitely thankful to be where I’m at now. It’s to the point where I can go through my day-by-day without thinking about it too much and it hindering my day-to-day activities,” he said. “I’m definitely thankful for everybody who’s helped me get here.”
Brittain has worked at the university since 2017, first as a student worker and then full-time this year.
“Luke is such a valued member of our Kent State Stark family. He has been missed by not only our grounds crew team, but the entire campus community. As a former Kent State Stark student, and now a full-time campus employee, Luke takes pride in our facilities and 200 acres of grounds,” said Dean Denise A. Seachrist in an emailed statement. “We eagerly welcome Luke ‘home’ and are so thankful for his return following this unfortunate accident.”
The 2015 Hoover High School graduate studied communications. He wants to work in sales or maybe teach some day.
And he’s interested in coaching baseball.
Before the accident, Brittain was a longtime baseball player. He pitched and occasionally played first base and outfield.
The sport is an escape, a way to clear his head, Brittain said. “It’s hard not being able to do it at all.”
The Brittains are now working to raise awareness about the danger of mowers. As well as advocate for changes to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
Ohio BWC covered Luke’s medical bills, but he only received about 50 percent of his paycheck while he was injured and payments were delayed, Angela Brittain said,
The family launched an online fundraiser to help keep Luke in his apartment and above water, she said, adding that someone with a family to support would be in much worse shape.
They launched a Facebook page -- Taking a Stand on Mower Safety -- to advocate for those changes as well as for specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations for mowers.
The page also shares Luke’s progress as well as stories of others impacted by mower accidents.
“We don’t want to see this happen to anyone else,” she said.
Reach Jessica at 330-580-8322 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @jholbrookREP.