Norton woman who lost scalp in plant accident released from hospital, grateful to be alive

25-year-old recovering from skin graft surgeries

NORTON, Ohio - Monica Thayer spent 17 days at Akron General Hospital after her scalp was torn from her head inside of a Barberton plant where she worked for less than a week.

On Wednesday, the 25-year-old woman from Norton returned home where she continues to count her blessings despite a horrific accident that resulted in multiple skin grafts.

"I still have a life. I still have fully functioning limbs. My brain did not have any damage done. My spinal cord did not have any damage done. I'm comfortable with the fact that I'm going to have to buy wigs for the rest of my life, and that kind of thing, because you can buy wigs. You can't buy a life," Thayer said.

On July 2, Thayer was cleaning parts from a machine that cuts steel tubing at JR Engineering when she suddenly felt a tug on her her ponytail. She was yanked face first into the powerful machine. Unable to reach the safety stop button, Thayer screamed for help.

"Luckily, I have a big mouth and a loud voice, so they could hear me over the machine. A man named Clyde (a co-worker) stopped the machine," Thayer explained.

It took about 20 terrifying minutes for rescue crews to free Thayer from the machine. She knew her hair had been ripped out, but didn't realize at the time that her scalp was pulled off too.

"The only thing I thought of was I was going to bleed to death or the machine was going to start up and just snap my neck," Thayer said.

Thayer said surgeons worked for eight hours to stop her head from bleeding and saved her life.

"With the injury that I sustained, at least 90 percent of the people do not live because they bleed to death before help can even get to them," Thayer said.

Surgeons performed three skin graft procedures, taking skin from Thayer's thighs and a hip, and then reattached it to the top of her head.

Thayer said she will never have hair or eyebrows again.

She said the pain on the top of her head isn't as bad as people would imagine because nerves were also ripped out during the accident. However, she is struggling with "a burning sensation" in the areas of her legs where skin was grafted.

Bandages cover up her entire head as she waits for at least one more surgical procedure. All the while, Thayer considers what happened to her "a freak accident" and doesn't blame the company. But she does want the manufacturer of the machine to make safety improvements.

"I don't want this to happen to anybody else. It was horrific. It was terrifying. I would never wish this upon anybody, not even my worst enemy," Thayer said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident and expects to release a final report within six months.

Watch more of Thayer's exclusive interview with NewsChannel5 at 5 p.m.

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