A nail in the heart drives home a lesson on faith and prayer

Published: Thursday, July 25 2013 10:30 p.m. MDT

Abe Tullis holds the nail that entered his heart at his home in Midway Thursday, July 25, 2013. The 12-year-old is alive miraculously after a 2 1/2 inch nail entered the left ventricle of his heart as he was mowing the lawn. His father David Tullis is an ER physician and took him immediately to the hospital.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

MIDWAY — It’s a step up from catching your first pop fly. For a 12-year-old, mowing the lawn for the first time is just another stepping-stone toward your first shave.

And so it was for Abe Tullis, who had seen has dad mow the lawn many times before and had visions of opening up his own lawn mowing business with one of his neighborhood buddies.

Now it was his turn to power up the mower.

The backyard spread out in front of Abe that sunny Tuesday afternoon. He heard the lawn mower give a soft purr that grew to a mild roar. With a little push, he was off. He moved up the yard with ease, his pass done. But as he anticipated the turn to start row two, he heard a sound. Something dark shot out from under the lawn mower and hit him in the chest.

“It felt kind of like stinging, but kind of like a bruise-sting mix thing,” Abe said.

Two and a half hours later the surgeon at Primary Children’s Medical Hospital took John Tullis, Abe’s grandfather, aside.

“He basically said, ‘This could be very good, or you need to be prepared for something that could be extremely serious,’” he said. His grandfather doesn’t remember the doctor’s exact words but said, “There was definitely no question about the implication.”

Thursday, more than seven weeks after a 2-¼ inch nail shot into Abe Tullis’ heart, the boy was in good enough shape to complete a soccer camp at Brigham Young University.

The nail

Abe’s father David Tullis, a family practice and Emergency Room doctor, heard his son yell out and ran to his side, confused when his son said his chest hurt.

“As I looked at his shirt there was just a little tiny hole,” David Tullis said. “I pulled it up and I remember just seeing this curved end just sticking slightly out of the skin.”

His first instinct was to pull the little piece of metal out, but he stopped.

“As I pulled the shirt up and watched him breathe, as his chest expanded the nail pulled in a little bit and it looked like it could be deep,” he said.

That was when David Tullis knew he had to get his son to the hospital; he told his wife Myndie to get the car.

“It went through the front part of the heart into the right ventricle and hit the interventricular septum, which is a thicker part of the heart, and that’s where it stopped,” David Tullis said. The metal piece was short enough not to break through that part of the heart he said, but long enough that “it was still plugging the hole that it went through and he was able to form a clot around that.”

Myndie Tullis held her son in her arms as they raced to the hospital: "Stay with me, stay with me," she recalled saying.

ER doctors came to Abe's aid. Myndie stepped into the hallway of the Intermountain Heber Valley Clinic hospital, and with shaking fingers began scrolling through the contacts on her phone looking for someone, anyone, she could text to pray for her son.

“Abe was mowing the lawn and something shot up and penetrated into him right above his heart. We are being flown to Primary Children’s. Please say a prayer for Abe and the doctor that will work on him,” the text message said.

David Tullis told his wife the X-ray revealed the nail had penetrated his heart.

She said her husband broke down.

“We just hugged and he said, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen,’” Myndie Tullis said.

David Tullis said he tried not to think that he might lose his oldest son.

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