Painting a tin roof, Willie Robinson slipped, tumbled off the roof and slammed onto the top of a chain-link fence.
The husky handyman crushed some of the fence, but not the 2-inch-wide vertical pole holding the fence erect. It jabbed 6 inches into the back of his left thigh.
Straddling the fence, his right toes touching the ground, the 46-year-old Robinson considered lifting himself off. But he stayed put. He remembered a TV show - Worst Case Scenario, he told a paramedic minutes later - in which experts urged leaving a knife or other object in your body until you get to the hospital.
Robinson's decision Thursday evening "may have saved his life," the paramedic, Natalie Brown of Tampa Fire Rescue, said Friday.
Brown held Robinson's hand as three paramedics attacked the fence with bolt cutters and a hacksaw. Brown's partner, Tomi Marino, held the sagging Robinson erect. From the roof above, spilled sealant paint dripped thick, silver and sticky onto the rescuers' heads.
Robinson lay on his right side during a helicopter trip to Tampa General Hospital, with nearly a foot of the pole still inserted in his leg. It was removed later.
David Borgenicht of Philadelphia is co-author of 15 versions of the irreverent Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. The television show based on the book lasted only 22 episodes in 2002, and Borgenicht couldn't recall Friday whether any dealt with impalement.
But he liked getting a little credit from Robinson.
"It's really gratifying to think that these books not only may have entertained people, but may have helped save a few lives as well," Borgenicht said.
Doctors agree that when someone is impaled, the object should be removed only after evaluation.
"The damage is already done anyway," said Eric Castellucci, an emergency physician at St. Joseph's Hospital. "If you pull that out, it causes reinjury."
Picture a garden hose, pressurized with water, Castellucci said. Stick a knife in the hose, and water probably seeps out. But pull the knife out, and the wound gushes.
Moreover, arteries, veins and nerves commonly travel through the body side by side in "neurovascular bundles," Castellucci said. An intruding object may be affecting multiple parts.
"You never, ever want to pull an impaled object out unless it's blocking an airway," said Brown, the paramedic. "You want to let a surgeon do that."
Impaled on his cousin's fence on McBerry Street in East Tampa, Robinson never complained, Brown said. He tried to make jokes. He schooled the paramedics on how to remove the silver paint from their hair and clothes.
Yet he bled steadily, and drooped with fatigue.
"I could see in his face that he was in pain," Brown said.
Robinson thanked every paramedic as they pushed him toward the helicopter.
"You're going to walk out," Brown told him. "Keep being positive."
Bill Coats can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org of (813) 269-5309.