Last summer, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was involved in a fireworks accident that resulted in him losing part of his right hand and fingers. Pierre-Paul was rushed to a South Florida hospital, ultimately spending weeks there while undergoing 10 surgeries and rigorous treatment. Rumors about his experience flew all offseason and even throughout the 2015 regular season, with precious little information beyond the broad strokes being confirmed.
On Tuesday, though, Pierre-Paul and several of his family members and friends were quoted extensively in an article about the ordeal in Sports Illustrated. Below, we have summarized and excerpted relevant portions of that article to give you an idea of what Pierre-Paul's ordeal was like.
Pierre-Paul purchased $1,100 worth of fireworks for his family and friends to set off over July Fourth weekend. They had almost all been set off by midnight, but a friend pointed out that they should finish them off. Pierre-Paul attempted seven times to set off the last batch, but was unsuccessful. He tried one last time, and then:
“I remember a big flash, and I heard boom!” says Farraw Germain, the mother of Pierre-Paul’s then 8-month-old son, Josiah. “There was a lot of smoke.” Pierre-Paul sensed trouble right away. “As soon as I saw the green light, I jumped,” he says. “I knew something dangerous was about to happen.”
Pierre-Paul dropped to the grass. But when he arose he smelled nothing, felt nothing. Then he heard Germain shriek in terror, “Your hand!”
“I’m looking at my [right] hand and I’m seeing every ligament,” he recalls. “You only see this stuff in the movies.”
The drive to the hospital
Pierre-Paul then wrapped his hand in a T-shirt and got into Germain's car. A friend, Tarvarus Jackson, drove to Broward Health North hospital in five minutes.
In an instant he wrapped his shirt around his hand -- destroyed to a degree he still could not know -- and bounded toward the passenger seat of Germain’s nearby Porsche Cayenne. Inside, blood spilled everywhere, on the doors, on the seat, in the dashboard vents. The metallic smell of gore filled the car.
Do not cut my hand off
Upon arriving at the hospital, Pierre-Paul was given emergency surgeries and heavy doses of pain medication. He told Sports Illustrated that that he cannot recall much of what happened next, though he did remember one thing very clearly:
Before he succumbed to a state of semi-consciousness, he had one directive for his doctors. “Whatever y’all do, do not cut my hand off.”
He was given emergency surgery that required more than a dozen pins inserted into his hand and a skin graft from his forearm onto his palm. At this time, a doctor told Germain that Pierre-Paul's career was likely over. It wasn't until he was transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he saw Dr. Patrick Owens, that those fears were abated.
Within days, Giants personnel descended on the hospital. Ronnie Barnes (senior vice president of medical services) and former Giants defensive end Jessie Armstead (who serves as a special assistant) were dispatched to Florida. They were initially denied access to Pierre-Paul to determine the severity of his injuries.
At Jackson Memorial, Barnes and Armstead had to negotiate access to their player through his family and advisers. Eventually, Germain says she spoke on his behalf: She met with the Giants’ reps at a hospital Dunkin’ Donuts and told them he wasn’t ready to be seen, that he could barely communicate; often he would just moan answers to doctors’ questions, then slip back to sleep. On July 8 the New York contingent left Miami with little new information.
The drama ballooned from there. Pro Football Talk reported that Pierre-Paul had knowingly denied the Giants entrance to his room. (Pierre-Paul rejects that: “If I knew they were there, I’d be like, ‘Let ’em in.’”) And a team source told the New York Daily News, “We really don’t understand why [his representatives] won’t let us help him. What are they trying to do?” (Giants spokesperson Pat Hanlon confirms Pierre-Paul’s account.)
Pierre-Paul supported his family and friends' decision when pressed on the matter by Sports Illustrated.
“My family is gonna go off what they think is best for [us],” he says.
Pierre-Paul spent two and a half weeks in the hospital. He had 10 surgeries and lost 30 pounds during that time.
Despite all he has had to go through, Pierre-Paul told Sports Illustrated that he has no regrets about what happened.
“I have no regrets at all [about the accident],” he says. (Pierre-Paul was never charged in Florida, where fireworks that explode are prohibited.) Instead, he points to how it has changed him. “I carry myself differently. I look at things differently. I try not to put myself in horrible situations anymore. I have a lot of people depending on me -- even people I didn’t know depended on me.”
“I could dwell on it, like, Damn, I wish I had that finger,” he says, “but when I look in the mirror, I’m happy. Thank the Lord -- it could have been worse.”