If you’ve read my first couple of blog posts, you know that I’ve come a long way since my motorcycle accident: I had to learn to walk again and battled an addiction to opioids. Along the way, I discovered CBD oil, which has been a lifesaver.
But I wouldn’t even be writing this to you now without the help of my rescuers. These often unsung heroes scooped me from a ditch along a Texas Highway and saved my life.
As you may recall from my very first blog post, a 1300-pound Honda Goldwing going 75 mph collided with me (the motorcyclist had locked up his brakes trying to stop before hitting the truck in front of him).
The full force of the Goldwing rammed into my left leg, throwing me off of my bike and into the ditch. Luckily, the ditch I found myself in was near to the Punkin-Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department, where first responders happened to be at the station that day.
When the first responders arrived, they began by assessing who had the greatest need for care. Rick Stevens, the fire chief, found me in the ditch with serious injuries to my pelvis. My pelvis was actually termed a “free-moving pelvis,” which is associated with a high volume of blood loss and the potential to be very high-mortality. Once Chief Stevens had assessed the condition I was in, he realized that my injuries were the worst out of everyone’s. As per protocol, I was rescued first.
My rescuers got me into a PHI helicopter and transported me to the trauma unit at the Memorial Hermann Medical Center. Initially, they were going to send me via ambulance to Conroe Regional, but I probably wouldn't have made it if they’d gone with that original idea.
Not many people survive motorcycle accidents and many people told my wife an accident like mine may not lead to a positive outcome.
Coincidentally, several months after my rescue, my mom was injured from a fall and had to be brought to the hospital. While visiting her there, I ran into Brandy Stevens of the Montgomery County Hospital District. After chatting to her a bit, I found out Brandy is married to Rick Stevens - the fire chief who was part of my rescue team. Rick was the one who made the call for the Life Flight. He was instrumental in getting me to the hospital alive because, originally, the team had been considering sending me to a local hospital via ambulance (a trip I would not have survived).
After that, Chief Stevens and I began to coordinate a reunion meeting between myself and my rescuers.
On June 8, 2016, a little over a year after my accident, I--along with my wife, Mary--was reunited with my rescuers from the Punkin-Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department and the flight crew of the PHI helicopter.
I was pretty emotional at the start of our meeting at the Paradise Grille. I opened by thanking everyone for their involvement in saving my life. I also thanked them for saving my wife from having to grieve the loss of a husband.
Afterwards, everyone shared their recollections about the accident. One of the first responders-- Carolyn Renfro, who helped me onto a stretcher--recalled seeing the pain I was enduring and the bad shape I was in. One of the emergency medical responders, Mike Melton, remembered observing that my pelvis was cracked in half while he was splinting my leg. Rich Vandiver, the pilot who flew me into the hospital, mentioned that this was the first time he had been reunited with a past patient. And, although the flight nurse, Jason Potts, downplays his involvement in my rescue, saying most of the work was done on the ground, I am grateful to him as well.
We also updated the responders on my progress since they found me. I explained that my condition had changed gradually, and that it was nine months before I could walk again.
First responders are usually working behind the scenes. As a result, they often remain unacknowledged. Even if you’re the one in an accident, it may be hard to comprehend all of the work that’s being done by your rescuers.
However, one thing in particular has stayed with me: The fact that they all worked together as a team to save me. The professionalism they displayed at our reunion said a lot to me as well. Every single one of the team members was emotional about my situation, and each of my 15 rescuers spoke with me personally at the reunion. I, in turn, will never forget that I owe them my life.
I always like to tell people I have the most expensive t-shirt ever made! $43,000 is what it cost me for the PHI Helicopter Life Flight to the Memorial Hermann Trauma Center in Houston. I wear that shirt proudly because they only give them out to patients who were life-flighted in.
I continue to stay in touch with several of the first responders via Facebook and thank my lucky stars they were there to save my life. I have also connected with many other riders who have had similar accidents, through my Sons of Arthritis website.
I still do love to hear from others who have endured the same sorts of major accidents as I have, and I will forever be thankful for those involved in my recovery and life-saving event.