Former LSU lineman Matt Branch nearly died late last year after a freak hunting accident in which he was shot by a dog, causing him to lose his leg.
Branch, who played for the Tigers from 2008-2011, was on an annual hunt with his family and friends in Mississippi on Dec. 28. Branch and several others started loading their duck hunting gear into the back of a truck, where his shotgun was laying.
According to the Clarion Ledger, a black Labrador Retriever suddenly jumped into the back of the bed and right onto the gun. Somehow, the dog’s paw turned off the safety and pulled the trigger, shooting Branch in the left leg.
“I kind of looked around at the shock of everyone else,” Branch said, via the Ledger. “I looked down and saw the gaping hole in the Ranger bed next to me. That's when I knew I was shot.”
Branch said he didn’t feel much pain, but rather just a loss of feeling in his left leg. About an hour after he was shot, he lost memory.
He technically died twice after arriving at the hospital, too.
"I coded for probably over an hour," Branch said, via the Ledger. "It was two different times. They (medics) worked on me and brought me back.”
Branch was unconscious for 12 days at the hospital, during which time doctors preformed nine surgeries on him and amputated his entire left leg.
“When I woke up I was extremely weak,” Branch said, via the Ledger. “I couldn't feed myself. I couldn't sit up. I could barely grab a bottle of water off the table. I'd been asleep 12 days. It's crazy how your body can get so weak when it's not used.”
Doctors didn’t tell him that he had lost his leg until the next day. He said he remembers having strange, vivid dreams that were tough to understand, and even felt pain in his left leg after it had been amputated.
While waking up to losing a limb would come as a shock to most people, Branch said it wasn’t surprising.
“For several days they didn't know if I would live or die, so I was happy to be alive rather than mad I lost my leg,” Branch said, via the Ledger. “I kind of accepted it and tried to figure out what I needed to do to get out of the hospital.”
Branch underwent three more surgeries after he awoke, and spent 57 more days in the hospital and a rehab center. Doctors, after determining that it was possible, eventually fit him with a titanium prosthetic leg.
Now, months later, Branch is walking again and back at his old job. Though he knows it won’t ever be the same, he is simply trying to stay positive and keep moving forward each day.
“There were definitely times, especially in the hospital and some times after, you feel isolated,” Branch said, via the Ledger. “You ask yourself why you lost a limb.
“But at the end of the day, you've still lost a limb. I decided early on to try to be positive. I still have bad days. I'm going to have bad days. I'm just going to try to best I can so I can work through it.”
He also said that he’s planning to keep hunting.
It is such a big part of his family, he said, and he isn’t going to let the accident — however severe it was — stop him.
“I'm going to continue to hunt,” Branch said, via the Ledger. “I'm not going to blame this on hunting — or guns, for that matter.
“I probably won't hunt as much as I used to just because I can't do all the things I did before, but I'm going to continue to hunt and carry on the hunting tradition in my family, for sure.”
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