It’s not an uncommon sight. Grandfathers hug their grandsons for all kinds of reasons.
Sometimes it’s a form of loving encouragement. Maybe a youngster brought home a great report card, or scored the winning run in Little League.
Sometimes it’s a way to communicate consolation or comfort. Perhaps there was a bad breakup right before homecoming, or a fender bender during driver’s ed.
Rarely is that protective clasp a matter of life and death. Though after all, most proud grandfathers would do practically anything for the grandkids they adore.
Tragically, that was the circumstance surrounding a final momentous embrace recently shared between an Edmond, Oklahoma, grandfather and his 13-year-old grandson. And now, this selfless elder is being remembered as a true hero.
There was no reason to expect such a heartbreaking twist of fate. KCBD-TV reports that 63-year-old Jerry Greenough had been enjoying uneventful camping trips in Red River, New Mexico, for roughly two decades.
But this year was different. This was the year his twin 13-year-old grandsons were old enough to tag along with the man they called “Papa” on Greenough’s annual journey up a southwestern mountain.
The trio was joined by the boys’ dad. There was no trouble on the drive up, and that first night everyone got to camp out on the summit under the stars.
But during the trip back down, a catastrophic event occurred.
Amanda Kerley, the twins’ mother and Greenough’s daughter, was understandably distraught when she spoke to NBC affiliate KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City. “I never expected this to happen,” she told the station. “I don’t understand it. Daddy knew that trail.”
Surviving family members later explained that Greenough and his grandson Austyn Kerley were driving down in one Jeep. They were behind Austyn’s brother and father, who rode in the other Jeep.
It all came down to a rock in the road. As Austyn later explained to KFOR, “My Papa tried to floor the Jeep to get it to go over the rock, and the rock slid out and then we just rolled down the hill.”
Sadly, that “hill” was a whopping 150 feet, and their vehicle tumbled straight down before abruptly coming to rest at the mountain’s base. But Greenough was determined to spare his beloved young grandson from death.
Amanda recalled her father’s final self-sacrificing gesture. “My dad grabbed a hold of [Austyn] and just cocooned him,” she said, “just totally protected him from as much as he could as the Jeep rolled down.”
Though seriously injured in the accident, Austyn clearly recollected that last altruistic act. “I remember his arms around me,” he told KFOR, “because I held onto his right sleeve all the way down until he let go of me and I lost my grip and flew out.”
Using the winch on his own Jeep, Austyn’s father frantically scrambled down the mountainside while other motorists stopped to assist. According to Amanda, one of those individuals was a trained paramedic.
“He did 15 to 20 minutes’ worth of CPR on my dad, and he just never – my daddy was gone,” Amanda said told KFOR.
Austyn was airlifted to an area hospital for emergency treatment. He suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung, and spinal injuries.
The boy also lost his spleen, and more than 40 percent of his blood. But thanks to his grandfather’s noble, quick thinking, Austyn survived.
Miraculously, Austyn’s hospital stay was shorter than expected and he ultimately returned home to recuperate. Perhaps it was his loving “Papa,” still watching over him.
“There’s no doubt in my mind my daddy gave his life to save him,” Amanda declared.
“And he would do it over and over again,” she added. “That’s who my dad was.”
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