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A half-second warning
That’s when the third vehicle came in and struck the second, slamming the second into me and sending me tumbling an estimated 20-30 feet. This impact occurred 33 seconds after the second vehicle impacted. I had approximately a half-second warning that something was happening as I heard tires sliding on ice and then the impact. I remained conscious throughout the entire event. I had two thoughts simultaneously as I was impacted and tumbling: “That did not just happen” and “This is not going to end well.”
As I came to rest cradled in the plowed snow bank on my back, I saw the pickup come to a rest beside me. I wondered if it was done moving toward me. My first thought was to get back over the guard rail, which I could reach out and touch. Due to the pain in my chest and legs and being cradled in the snow, I could not move at all. I started wondering when the next out-of-control vehicle was going to come along and finish me off and I couldn’t do a thing about it.
Assessing my situation
Having been a paramedic for more than 20 years, I laid there assessing my injuries. My lower legs were in extreme pain; I figured they were both badly broken. My chest hurt badly, especially on the right side. I was breathing very quickly and I could hear fluids in my lungs as I inhaled and exhaled. I figured I had at least a pneumo (a pneumothorax, or collapsed lung). It’s at that point that I began thinking of my family and wondering whether I would see them again. As I told others, I have been in many fires over the years and some sticky situations in them, but I have never felt fear for my safety. I was scared for my life at this point.
A DPD officer had witnessed me getting struck and I could hear him yelling to me and he was yelling out for others to help. I heard people yelling that they could not locate my driver. I thought “Where’s Darryl?” My other two firefighters, Firefighter/Paramedic Nick Harris and Firefighter/EMT Tony Jollay, and DPD Officer Jason Ward came to my aid and placed themselves in a still potentially dangerous situation to grab me and move me to a safe area to begin treatment. My driver, Firefighter/Paramedic Darryl Conley, quickly came to their sides to help begin care on me. He had been located and was OK. The first medic unit arrived and assisted my crew with my care. Once they got me into the medic, I finally began to get the feeling that things were going to be OK. I had every confidence in their care and they all did a marvelous job in a very stressful situation.
I was transported to Miami Valley Hospital, our local Level I trauma center, where I was found to have a small fracture to my right fibula, three broken ribs and a very small pneumo. They said the pneumo was barely visible on the x-ray and in fact had all but resolved itself by my discharge the next day.
My recovery went very well. I spent three weeks off duty, then went back on light duty for three additional weeks. I was back to full duty six weeks after the accident. As the above-mentioned injuries healed, I have since found that I also tore the medial meniscus in both knees. I believe the pain from the other injuries masked the pain from the knee injuries early on. n
Next: Lessons learned