As a police officer and volunteer firefighter, there’s no telling what Matt Odom might see on a given day.
But ever since May 30, 2021, two things have become unavoidable components of his daily routine.
He’ll see the scars on his neck and torso – reminders of the life-threatening injuries he suffered when he was stabbed that night. Then Odom will remember just how fortunate he is to be able to tell the story.
“I tell people that every day,” Sergeant Odom said. “I am one lucky dude.”
A 16-year veteran of the Harrison, Arkansas, Police Department, Odom is one of several law enforcement officers who moonlights as a security guard at the town’s hospital, North Arkansas Regional Medical Center. He has worked in the hospital’s emergency department for about 11 years, earning extra income to support a family including his wife, their three daughters and foster children.
“I’ve seen a lot of people save a lot of lives,” Odom said.
Including his own.
It was about 9:45 p.m. on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend when Odom was summoned to investigate a disturbance in the hospital’s emergency department. Odom said he cannot discuss specifics about the incident, as the criminal charges against his alleged attacker are still pending. But he confirmed media reports stating he asked the suspect to leave the room, at which point he was stabbed.
“I just invited him to come outside and talk to me so he wasn’t cussing and yelling and causing a scene inside the ER,” Odom recalled. “I was just going to take him outside and say ‘Hey man, what’s the deal? What’s going on?’ He cussed at me a few times and told me ‘No’ and finally I was just going to escort him out, and that’s when he stabbed me.”
Odom said he suffered two stab wounds that evening – one just below his armpit, the other in his neck.
“It just went behind my collarbone 4-1/2 inches deep,” Odom said. “But it bled like a stuck pig. I was drenched.”
Despite his injuries, Odom was able to subdue the suspect until reinforcements arrived just over a minute later.
“It only took 72 seconds for my partner to get there that night, but it seemed like an eternity,” he said.
Once Odom’s partner handcuffed the suspect, Odom was finally able to seek medical attention. Because he was already at the emergency department, he thankfully didn’t have to travel far to receive care.
“They opened up the door and I ran back there as I was stripping off my clothes to get help,” Odom said.
‘I WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT’
Because time is of the essence in an emergency, Odom’s proximity to doctors, nurses and medics significantly aided his chances of surviving his injuries. But had Odom’s wound been in a slightly different location, it likely wouldn’t have mattered how close to the hospital he was.
“The doctor told me even being in the ER, if it was a half-inch one way or the other I wouldn’t have made it because it would have gotten my artery,” Odom said.
His partner’s prompt arrival also contributed to Odom’s survival. Odom said he didn’t know just how much blood he lost in those 72 seconds, but he said he started losing consciousness and feeling dizzy.
“If it’s another 20 seconds or even another 30 seconds, I don’t know where I would be,” Odom said. “He could have picked that knife up and came back and got me.”
Instead, Odom was receiving medical care less than two minutes after the incident.
Doctors, nurses and the hospital staff got a head start in the race to save Odom’s life, but still faced a battle.
“They were cool as a cucumber, man,” Odom said. “They were perfect. They were excellent. I didn’t know how bad it was – and I laugh about it now – I didn’t know how bad it was until they put the shock pads on me. And when I saw them put the shock pads on me, that’s when I knew that I could be in trouble.”
And when Odom saw that defibrillator?
“I thought I was a goner,” Odom said.
‘GIVE HIM BLOOD’
Despite nearly losing consciousness in the immediate aftermath of the incident, Odom remembers a significant amount of what happened in the emergency room.
“I could hear them talking,” Odom recalled. “I heard them say ‘Give him medicine.’ I heard them say ‘Give him blood.’ So I started yelling out my blood type for them. I yelled out my blood type so they knew what to give me, but they said ‘They don’t care what you are, you’re getting O (Negative).’”
O Negative blood can be given to people with any blood type, which makes it the most used in emergency situations. Even though Odom knew his blood type, O Negative was immediately available.
“Every second counts,” Odom said.
North Arkansas Regional Medical Center is one of the 44 local hospitals that exclusively relies on Community Blood Center of the Ozarks donors for their blood, plasma and platelets. The reason that doctors could administer blood so quickly was because it was on the shelf at the time of the incident.
Odom ultimately received two units of O Negative blood, which came from CBCO donors.
“It makes me feel honored to know that they took time out of their day to help me,” Odom said.
Odom spent one night in the hospital’s intensive care unit, but was back on the job on Tuesday.
“I signed up for it,” Odom said. “That’s what I kept telling the people in the hospital. They’re like ‘Thank you for what you did.’ I’m like ‘No, that’s why I’m here. I’m glad it was me that got hurt and not y’all.’”
Odom does not know the identity of his donors, but he is grateful for the role they played in his recovery.
“I want to thank them,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, who knows where I would be today? It was only two units of blood, but that’s two units of blood that I didn’t have in my body that came from a special donor.”
‘YOU WILL AND CAN SAVE A LIFE’
Odom’s story helped inspire the Harrison Police Department and Harrison Fire Department to join forces for a special Boots & Badges Blood Drive, which will be held at Eagle Heights Baptist Church on September 6. The agencies are having a friendly competition to see which side can recruit the most donors, with all donors having the opportunity to vote for either the Boots (Fire) or Badges (Police).
“Come out, please,” Odom said. “You will and can save a life.”
Odom is living proof of that.
The May 2021 incident was the second time Odom received blood transfusions. He needed three to four units after breaking his leg in a freak accident about 20 years ago, before he joined the force. He’s long understood the importance of donating blood, but the Boots & Badges event carries added significance.
“It’s even bigger now, since I’ve had to go through it as a cop myself getting blood from some of these donors,” Odom said. “It’s huge. I think it’s a great thing that our guys are doing.”
Odom has also been a volunteer firefighter for 22 years, so he wouldn’t mind seeing either side emerge victorious – especially because one donation has the power to help up to three people in local hospitals.
A strong turnout will help ensure that North Arkansas Regional Medical Center – and all of the healthcare facilities throughout the Ozarks – have blood readily available when the next emergency situation arises.
“No matter who wins or loses, the community wins by the blood that’s being donated,” Odom said.
Donating blood with the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks allows more than 40 local hospitals to continue to provide lifesaving treatment to friends, neighbors and loved ones here in our communities. There is no other organization that supplies blood and blood products to these hospitals, who rely exclusively on CBCO donors to help people like Sgt. Odom. What kind of stories will your donation inspire? Click here to find a drive near you.