Mass. woman recalls husband's survival from attack
SHIRLEY, Mass.—Nathan Beauvais already had a shank broken off in his neck when he saw another correction officer being attacked by an inmate at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center and crawled to her aid, his wife Nicole Beauvais said recently.
The jailhouse shank that pierced Beauvais' neck missed his spinal cord by a half-centimeter when he was attacked in the maximum security prison about 1:30 p.m. June 25.
Doctors believe if the prisoner had been able to pull out the shank, the spinal cord and an artery would have been cut and Beauvais would have died. But the handle broke and even though the inmate continued to rain down blows, the additional damage was minimal.
"I truly believe that God was watching over him and brought him through it," Nicole Beauvais said.
More inmates joined the melee.
An inmate smashed a set of crutches against a correction officer coming to Beauvais' aid.
When an inmate pinned a female correction officer to the floor, Beauvais rose up with the pick-like weapon still in his neck and crawled to her aid.
"Nate tried to pull the prisoner up with the shank in his neck," Nicole Beauvais said.
A response team charged into the fracas within about 30 seconds. Seven officers were injured, Nicole Beauvais said.
Nathan Beauvais declined to comment on his attack or recovery, citing Department of Correction rules.
Department of Correction spokeswoman Diane Wiffin referred comment on the investigation and potential charges to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.'s office since it happened on the Worcester County side of the prison.
"Investigation is continuing," Early's spokesman Paul Jarvey said. "There have not been any charges yet."
Nicole Beauvais said she still doesn't know why the inmate attacked her husband but believes it may have been revenge for taking a homemade coffee maker from him a day earlier.
The shank was a piece of metal shaved to a sharp point, Nicole Beauvais said.
Beauvais, 28, works the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. He celebrated his fourth anniversary as a correction officer June 1.
Nicole Beauvais realizes she was living in a protective cocoon created by her husband since he was attacked about a year ago. He suffered two black eyes and a broken nose, but he was able to allay her concerns and seldom talks about work.
When she got the telephone call at work in Westminster that he had been attacked again, she was told the injuries were mostly bumps and bruises.
She got to University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester just before Beauvais went into surgery and learned that he might be a quadriplegic.
"I just whispered, `I love you no matter what,'" Nicole Beauvais recalled.
Beauvais was also told of the grim outlook before surgery.
"My first thought was he was never going to hug me again, he was never going to hold me again," Nicole Beauvais said.
He went into surgery for a couple hours, then a second surgery from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Beauvais woke up about 4 a.m. in a panic because his trachea had been operated on and he couldn't speak. Then he had a bad reaction to the pain medications. He would stop breathing in his sleep, so doctors took him off the medication.
He remained in the intensive care unit until June 29, when he was moved to the main floor. On June 30, Beauvais was told he would be sent to a rehabilitation center, but later in the day, surprised doctors said he was doing so well he would be discharged instead.
"We believe it was a miracle," Nicole Beauvais said. "He had so many people praying for him."
His left leg and foot are still numb and a hole in his trachea is still healing. There was concern whether he would ever swallow again, but the outlook is good now.
There is a scar where the shank went into the back of Beauvais' neck and a long scar on the right side of his throat where doctors had to perform surgery on his esophagus, she said.
Nicole Beauvais has been out of work while caring for her husband, but Beauvais' fellow correction officers told her not to worry about the mortgage on the home and have been holding fundraisers. Another correction officer has even been cutting the family's lawn for them.
"I don't think correction officers get enough credit for what they do," Nicole Beauvais said. "They keep dangerous men and women away from us."
The young couple is still considering their options for Beauvais' job, including a transfer or trying to become a sergeant with a supervisory role.
"At this point he's taking it one day at a time," Nicole Beauvais said.