There are two ways of looking at what happened to Daniel Correll on Feb. 11.
It was tragic to be sure, as this 39-year-old lost his right hand while operating a trash compactor.
But the Maryville native isn’t dwelling on losses or pain. He works vigorously each and every day to regain his strength and mobility in hopes of being fitted with a highly functioning prosthetic hand. That, after all, is the only way he’ll be able to return to the only job he’s known. His family owns Heaton’s Garbage Service.
“I’ve worked at this since I left high school,” he said. “It’s all I’ve ever done.”
It was about 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 11 when Correll said things went terribly wrong. He was unloading his truck at the Blount County Landfill when he got his hand stuck in his trash compactor.
“It pinched and then pulled my hand off,” he said. “One of my other drivers was nearby. He was able to back the compactor off of me enough to get me out of there.”
Next, Correll said he glanced down at his right arm, minus its hand and then looked around at his surroundings.
Seeing the urgency
“The landfill is a swampy, contaminated area,” he explained. “I saw my injury and looked at the ground and thought ‘infection. I need to get out of here.’”
So he drove himself a quarter mile back to the scales house where they could call an ambulance. It took only about seven minutes for emergency personnel to get there. They loaded and took him to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Immediately after the accident, Correll was able to keep his wits about him, wrapping his hand with a towel he had in his truck before driving down the hill to call for help. He also remembers a conversation he had on the way.
“With this kind of injury, they say you really bleed a lot,” Correll said. “But when I jumped in that truck and hit that gravel road, I prayed all the way down the road that I wouldn’t bleed out. When I got there, I wasn’t bleeding all that much.”
What about the pain immediately after the accident? Correll said he was mostly numb and didn’t feel much.
He spent four days at UT Medical Center where surgeons used skin from his palm to help form a flap over his wrist. He didn’t even require a blood transfusion and never lost consciousness.
Word spread fast about Correll’s injury. He said people poured into the hospital to check on him. This native of Blount County has numerous family and friends in the area, including some 6,000 customers.
“We’ve been doing this for 25 years,” he explained. “What started out as a mom-and-pop business has turned into thousands of accounts.”
What friends are for
Workers’ compensation will pay for his medical bills, but Correll can’t go back to work without a right hand. Friends and strangers have come together to raise money to provide a high-functioning prosthesis. He needs to be able to take back his 40-hour load and then some.
He drives 700 miles per week on his trash route and then also does routine maintenance on the 13 trucks and small repairs. He said the garbage service runs from county line to county line.
“I am like the guy who keeps it going,” Correll said.
It’s been a hard adjustment for him to make. But the three days a week he goes to therapy will help prepare Correll for a prothesis. Stretching and bending his right arm along with massages are keeping him as agile as possible. Wife Leslie has been a great help, he said.
As painful as that is, Correll is committed. “I need to get range of motion back,” he said. “I have to take it to its limits.”
He admits he still reaches for things and said he feels like the hand was never lost.
There are a few ways to help. A gofundme.com account called “Functional prosthetic hand for Daniel Correll” has been set up. In addition, there will be a benefit from noon to 6 p.m. on April 13 at Chilhowee View Community Center. This is the community where Correll grew up. The business is operated out of the house Correll grew up in.
The family also has set up an account at First Tennessee Bank. It is under the name of Leslie and Daniel Correll, 1846 Nandina Drive, Maryville.
With faith and hope
The fundraising goal is $70,000, Correll said. The cost of the prosthetic he needs will be about $150,000. Correll said he is hoping workers’ comp will pay the difference.
On Wednesday, his physical therapist told Correll he is healing nicely and “way ahead of the game” when it comes to his progress. He said it will probably be three months before he is completely healed and can start the process of being fitted for the prothesis.
That’s three months without being able to return to work, but with his wife working and workers’ comp paying him 66 percent of his salary, things won’t be unbearable financially, Correll said.
And while Correll has a long road ahead, the people who surround him give him strength. He said people he has never met have offered assistance.
What really touched him was a donation from one of his competitors, Carl’s Garbage Service. That check for $1,000 showed Correll just how a community comes together for one of its own.
He also spoke about the softball team at William Blount High School. Team members and coaches provided several dinners when Correll first got out of the hospital.
“There are so many good people here,” Correll said.