One stumble changed a 21-year-old Kennesaw man’s life forever.
Austin Stroud said he was walking down a thickly wooded trail alongside a moving train on his way to visit a friend near Adairsville on Oct. 29. Because of how thick the woods were, he told AJC.com he couldn’t really see when the train ended.
All of a sudden, he stepped on a loose patch of ground that gave way beneath him, causing him to stumble toward the tracks. As a last resort, Stroud rolled onto his back, putting his left foot in the air — and that’s when it happened.
“I tucked back, and a ladder or a stair hit the bottom of my foot, and even though it really only broke two bones in my foot, it took my pinky toe completely off,” Stroud said in an exclusive interview. “But because of how much tissue and skin (I lost), it couldn’t be saved.”
He never blacked out. In an adrenaline- and shock-induced stupor, Stroud got back to his feet and managed to emerge from the woods into the middle of Hall Station Road.
It would be the last time he walked on his left foot.
He then flagged down a school bus full of kids on their way home from school and a man in a pickup truck to call 911 for him.
His father, Steve Stroud, told AJC.com that no one on the train realized his son was hit and was severely injured.
According to a Bartow County Sheriff’s Office incident report, 911 dispatch called the train company, CSX Transportation, to let them know, and the train stopped near Kingston to investigate. CSX Transportation also confirmed that account to AJC.com.
Austin Stroud was briefly taken to Floyd Medical Center in Rome before being transferred to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. That’s where doctors recommended they amputate his foot and a portion of his lower leg.
“I was terrified in the beginning. I was telling both my parents that I didn’t want to lose my foot,” Stroud said. “But the doctors explained to me that the tissue below my foot couldn’t be replaced. It would be like placing a piece of paper under my bone.”
He said the reasons against keeping his foot continued piling up: heightened risk of infection, several difficult surgeries required and, overall, a lower quality of life. So he agreed, and his amputation was performed the next day.
After the surgery, Stroud was moved closer to home to WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, allowing his mother Amy Stroud, family and friends to be able to visit him. He said his father has barely left his side.
“All my friends and family have come to visit me for hours,” Austin Stroud said. “My dad has been like my roommate ... it means the world to me. You can’t take that for granted.”
That doesn’t mean it’s been an easy recovery. Since his amputation, Steve Stroud said his son has been in a lot of pain that has been tough to manage. At times, he said morphine and other opioids have done little to help, especially at night.
“It hadn’t been going so well, the night’s have been rough. It’s like Freddy Krueger at night,” he said.
In spite of the pain, Austin Stroud said his recovery has made great strides. He’s going through physical and occupational therapy, and he’s able to bend his knee and use walkers and wheelchairs to move around.
In about two or three weeks, he said he’ll go back to Erlanger to get fitted for a prosthetic.
“I hate the accident happened, but it’s been the best-case scenario,” Austin Stroud said. “I’m completely blessed to have walked away from it alive.”
His mother created a GoFundMe page to help with his medical costs.
In other news:
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.