'I Was Dead': Denver Judge David Blackett Recounts The Night He Was Stabbed In Heart- But Survived
DENVER (CBS4)- David Blackett just planned to putter around in his garage the night of August 18, 2019. It didn't go as planned. He was soon lying in a pool of his own blood recognizing he would soon be dead.
"I knew I was dying. I literally felt my life force was seeping out," said Blackett, in his first media interview, addressing the high profile crime.
He had been attacked and stabbed by a stranger in what was a random crime. Although Blackett arrived at Denver Health Medical Center with no heartbeat, no pulse and he wasn't breathing, he defied the odds and survived the terrifying and nearly-deadly attack.
"There were so many things that had to go right for me to make it," recalled Blackett, who was a magistrate in the Adams County court system at the time of the attack , but was appointed to be a Denver County Court Judge in 2021.
"Everyone had to do exactly the right thing and anything in that chain that fell, I don't think I would have made it."
Blackett confronted the stranger in his garage, a man later identified as Jose Armenta-Vazquez. Blackett said after a few words, Armenta-Vazquez charged him and the two fought. After a short time, Blackett said he looked down and noticed he was covered with blood.
"I realized I must have been stabbed. I see my T-shirt pulsing with my heartbeat, so I'm in bad shape now."
He didn't know it at the time, but the attacker's knife had plunged into his heart.
"I knew I was in bad shape. It felt like my life force was leaving me," said Blackett.
The suspect fled and Blackett attempted to use his cellphone to call for help but it was covered in blood and Blackett was physically unable to dial 911.
A man and his son playing tennis at a park across the street from Blackett's East Denver home heard the commotion and rushed to help Blackett, who had collapsed and was dying. First responders were called, including Denver paramedic Jessie Flippin.
She told CBS4, "I knew that we were in trouble," during the ride to the hospital's emergency room.
"I couldn't feel a pulse, no heartbeat... had a firefighter start CPR."
Fellow paramedic Taylor Allen said Blackett was "close to death" during the ambulance ride.
"The wound to his chest was pretty severe, pretty critical."
Surgery on Blackett began before he ever made it into an operating room. Denver Health trauma surgeon Ryan Lawless began cutting Blackett's chest open even as the patient was being wheeled in.
"He came in lifeless without a pulse," said Lawless, who acknowledges there was no time or avenue to administer anesthesia.
Although Blackett was lifeless, he now says he was aware his chest was being cut open without any anesthesia.
"I couldn't speak, couldn't feel my hands or feet but definitely felt that surgery. I could feel once they started cutting- I can't describe the intensity of the pain. There was no anesthesia, no pain relief, nothing. It felt like I was having an autopsy done while still alive," said Blackett.
He said during the excruciating pain, he envisioned his children sitting around talking after his funeral.
"My youngest son said to my oldest, 'I thought dad was tougher than that. I thought he would fight more.'"
Blackett said that vision motivated him to continue fighting.
"I just didn't want to go. I just didn't want to leave yet. It wasn't my time," said Blackett.
Lawless said after cutting open Blackett's chest, "I immediately see a hole in his heart so I held his heart in my hand and put my thumb over the hole."
Lawless said that move seemed to stabilize Blackett's blood pressure.
"I sewed around my thumb to close the hole in the heart," said Lawless.
As he recovered in the hospital, Blackett said numerous hospital employees who assisted with his case came to visit him and told him he was their "miracle man."
He said his case has shown that even the most desperate patient can be saved.
"From Dr. Lawless down, they had the mindset that it doesn't matter how bad this person is hurt, we're going to try."
"Lying in the call room staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m., said Lawless, "I think of David Blackett and a great save that everyone was involved in."
Flippin said when she learned Blackett had made it, "I was shocked. I was fully expecting him to be dead, honestly."
In less than two weeks, Blackett was able to leave the hospital.
He said while it was initially difficult to talk about what he went through, "The real reason to talk about it now is to be grateful, to express my gratitude. Everyone at Denver Health had the attitude of 'we can take it from here.' It was like I tagged them and they ran with it."
He says he has no animosity toward Armenta- Vazquez, who is serving a 48-year prison sentence.
Blackett said he focuses less now on day-to-day irritants and places a high value on relationships.
"The fight was worth it," said Blackett. "I really think to myself, 'I'm so glad I'm alive.'"
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