David Hamilton Rich Jr., the 22-year-old man impaled on an 8-foot fence post last weekend, yesterday held up the 2-foot long section doctors removed from his body and said, "This belong to me now."
The patient, who was listed in stable condition at Washington Hospital Center, said, "The doctors all tell me I'm a superstar. But I feel pretty sore right now."
The fence post sliced through Rich's upper right chest wall and exited from the left side above the hip - missing every vital organ in his body.
"I can't believe it happened," he said yesterday. "I didn't realize it (the wooden plank) went all the way through me until the rescue squad tried to pull me out of the car."
The Warrenton, Va., machinery operator and his girl friend, 22-year-old Susie Clark, slammed into a wooden fence off a country road early Saturday. The fence was six miles from Rich's home.
"I must have passed that damn fence a million times," Rich said yesterday, posing with the section of unpainted oak board that doctors removed from his body. "Thank God it hit me and not Susie," Rich siad.
Clark sustained minor abrasions in the Saturday morning accident.
"I was afraid I was going to die before the rescue squad got there," the bearded patient recalled yesterday. "But Susie kept saying, "You're gonna make it, you're gonna make it."
The Warrenton Rescue Squad sawed off sections of the board before they could remove Rich from the 1969 Triumph convertible sports car. "Oh my God, that really hurt," Rich said. "The board was pressing on my ribs. I put my hand down and felt my intestines. I didn't think I was going to make it. A couple of times I almost blacked out."
Rich said he remembered being flown by Park Police helicopter to Washington Hospital Center's shock trauma unit.
"When I got into the emergency room, the doctors were all saying 'Oh my God, oh my God.' They said they'd never seen anything like it."
Dr. Vikram Paul, who called the three-hour surgical effort to remove the board "a once-in-a-lifetime operation," said Rich was in stable condition but still susceptible to infection.
Hospital personnel joked with Rich yesterday and called him "the wonder boy." A television was wheeled into the intensive care unit so the patient could watch himself on the evening news. Asked what his plans were, Rich smiled weakly and said, "Frankly, I'm looking forward to getting into a little trouble."