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Teen nearly killed by pumpkin launcher has recovered with NGHS, family, church support
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Jacob Stevens, right, hugs John Jeffrey Marshall, left, chairman of The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, during the Northeast Georgia STEMI Summit at Lanier Technical College on Friday, March 22, 2019. Jacob Stevens was struck in the chest by a pumpkin, stopping his heart at Cornerstone Assembly church's Trunks of Treats event on Halloween night. - photo by Austin Steele

Jacob Stevens loves to write, particularly fiction and poetry like the works of some of his favorite authors, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Bronte and H.P. Lovecraft. But now, as his doctors say, he has his own story to tell.

Stevens was struck by a pumpkin at a church event in October. He was using a pumpkin launcher at Cornerstone Assembly’s Trunk of Treats, but when he used the launcher, which is similar to a slingshot, the pumpkin recoiled back and hit his chest.

The impact stopped his heart and damaged his lungs. Preston Fowler, one of Stevens’ youth leaders, performed CPR.  Hall County Fire Services and Oakwood Police also responded, and Stevens was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.

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Jacob Stevens, left, smiles following a presentation about, how he was saved after his heart stopped months earlier, during the Northeast Georgia STEMI Summit at Lanier Technical College on Friday, March 22, 2019. Jacob Stevens was struck in the chest by a pumpkin stopping his heart at Cornerstone Assembly church's Trunks of Treats event on Halloween night. - photo by Austin Steele

Stevens was able to see the doctors and first responders who treated him on Friday at the Northeast Georgia STEMI Summit at Lanier Tech. The event brings together paramedics, EMS staff, nurses and doctors from the Northeast Georgia STEMI System and across Georgia to discuss treatment of STEMI or ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, the most deadly type of heart attack.

“I feel incredible,” Stevens said Friday. “It’s interesting to be reminded of everything that happened and then know how far you’ve come.”

Stevens was treated with ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The system uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream, providing oxygen. It helped Stevens recover after his lungs were damaged.

He said he leaned on support from doctors, family, friends and his church as he recovered. A highlight was being able to see his friends for the first time after getting off life support, he said.

And while the congregation at Cornerstone Assembly was always a close-knit group, they were especially supportive while he was in the hospital, he said.

“They really stepped in for my family when we were all going through this and I’m extremely thankful for that,” Stevens said. “I’ve been thinking how it must have been for everyone else.”

One of the first things Stevens did was one of his favorite activities — writing.

“I wanted to keep journals, because I wanted to remember what I could at the time,” he said. “As stuff came back to me, I started keeping journals.”

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Chairman of The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center John Jeffrey Marshall speaks during the Northeast Georgia STEMI Summit at Lanier Technical College on Friday, March 22, 2019. The summit brings together paramedics, EMS staff, nurses, and doctors from the Northeast Georgia STEMI System and across the state to discuss rapid response and treatment of the most deadly type of heart attack, know as ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction. - photo by Austin Steele

Stevens, who is homeschooled, started school work again about three weeks after the accident, and he spent Christmas break catching up. Now, he hopes to write professionally.

Dr. Prad Tummala, one of Stevens’ doctors at NGMC, said treating patients like Stevens “brings the humanness back” to medical care.

“We go through different emotions ourselves when we take care of patients,” Tummala said. “When we see somebody in the situation that Jacob was in, you try to imagine life beyond what you’re seeing. … You see the family, you see the support and you see the love. Then you see the potential.”

Dr. John Jeffrey Marshall, chairman of The Heart Center at NGMC, said Stevens’ situation also shows the need for CPR training.

“The more people know it, the more people that could be saved,” Marshall said. “Those critical six to eight minutes when somebody goes down like this. … People that go out quickly like this, there’s plenty of oxygen in the lungs and blood vessels. If you just pump it around, it keeps the brain alive.”

The Northeast Georgia Health System has CPR information and videos online at nghs.com/actnow.

Marshall said every person involved in a situation like a cardiac arrest, from bystanders to first responders to medical personnel, plays a role and can help in an emergency.

“They all have to do their job or else we don’t get this result,” he said.


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Jacob Stevens, right, hugs John Jeffrey Marshall, left, chairman of The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, during the Northeast Georgia STEMI Summit at Lanier Technical College on Friday, March 22, 2019. Jacob Stevens was struck in the chest by a pumpkin, stopping his heart at Cornerstone Assembly church's Trunks of Treats event on Halloween night. - photo by Austin Steele
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