A simple task turned into a full-blown emergency on Christmas night when David Haney Jr. fell off of a stool while changing a light bulb and fractured his ankle.
The Glynn County Police sergeant lay on the back porch of his girlfriend’s mother’s home in Odum, grimacing in pain as the two standing adults fretted over his predicament.
Good thing there was a 9-year-old boy with a machete on hand.
With his dad in dire straits, young Caleb Haney swung into action. By the time Caleb was done, his dad had an ice pack on his ankle and was able to hobble to the car on a crutch that the boy had quickly extracted from the woods out back. It was a hearty feat worthy of Caleb’s hero, Les Stroud, the star of the Survivorman television series.
If Haney had any reservations about granting his son’s Christmas wish for a Gerber machete, they were long gone by the time he reached the emergency room.
“I’m really proud of the boy, the way he reacted,” said Haney, who will be off his feet for a few weeks while the fracture heals. “He’s never really seen anybody hurt bad, and this was his dad.”
Haney’s girlfriend, Adrienne Browning, admits she and her mom were not much help in the crisis. She did call 911, but Haney overruled, saying it was too much of a fuss. They also gave him a pillow for his head, which he pointed out would be better served propping up his foot.
“I’m not too good in a crisis,” concedes Browning, an attorney in Brunswick.
Not so for Caleb. After a brief crying jag, he was all action. He first ran to their car, where he knew Dad kept a first-aid kit. He returned in a jiffy, snapped the cold compression bag to activate it, then applied it to Haney’s ankle. Haney had scant little time to thank Caleb before the plucky youngster darted toward the woods out back, his trusty new machete in one hand and a flashlight in the other.
The woods started where the backyard ended, about 20 yards from the back porch. He could not help wondering what Caleb was up to. For all his efforts, Caleb was still just a scared boy worried about his dad.
“I could hear him sniffling and crying, but he was just working away,” Haney said. “I asked him what he was doing. He said that he was making me a splint. I said that wasn’t really necessary.”
So Caleb rushed back to the porch to check on dad. Then he figured out what the situation really needed.
“He ran back out in the woods and started chopping again,” Haney said. “I said, ‘What are you doing now?’ He said, ‘I’m making you a crutch.’”
Sure enough. The tool he formed even had a “Y” to brace beneath the underarm. It was sturdy enough to help the 210-pound Haney descend the back porch stairs and reach the car.
“I really didn’t know what I was doing,” said Caleb, a third grader at C.B. Greer Elementary. “I just thought. And I made something. I didn’t know what it was. I just made it.”
Browning was sufficiently impressed with what the youngster produced.
“You can’t tell him not to do something, he’s just like his dad,” Browning said. “He’s just sawing away back there. He abandoned the splint idea, then went to work on a crutch. And it actually helped him into the car better than I did.”
And the proud dad can see where this is going. Haney has worn a badge since he was 18, following in the footsteps of David Haney Sr., who also serves on the Glynn County Police Department. Mom Cathy Haney was a Brunswick Police officer before moving on to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
Caleb loves roughing it in the outdoors, and enjoys camping and traipsing in the woods with his grandpa.
“It was kind of his first taste of trauma, or a crisis,” Haney said. “I guess there’s a couple of ways to react, and he just took action, doing whatever he could to help, whatever he could think of.”