Firefighter who survived half hour underwater leaves rehab center
CINCINNATI (AP) - A firefighter who fell into a river during a
training exercise and spent nearly 30 minutes underwater survived
because the river's cold temperatures slowed his body function and
minimized damage to his vital organs, doctors said.
Chris Gabbard, 32, left a rehabilitation center Friday about 30
pounds lighter but without any apparent brain damage.
"I'd like to thank everybody for coming out today and seeing me off,"
Gabbard said at a short news conference at the Drake Center, where he
spent a month working with therapists.
Gabbard and about 12 members of the Hamilton Fire Department were
conducting an annual training exercise April 17 on the Great Miami
River when one of their boats overturned.
John Hansbauer, 35, received injuries to his legs and spine, and
Gabbard spent between 20 and 30 minutes underwater, fire officials
Initially treated at a hospital in Hamilton, Gabbard had a body
temperature of 80 degrees - about 19 degrees below normal. A
pacemaker kept his heart beating during a subsequent helicopter
flight to University Hospital in Cincinnati.
"I think one of the things that worked in Chris' favor was the water
was cold," said Dr. Joseph Segal, part of the Drake medical team that
worked with Gabbard. "So there was some hypothermia initially and
that slows everything down. We know that with brain injuries there's
less damage long term if there's hypothermia."
Gabbard, surrounded by his wife and two small children as he left the
rehab center, then hopped onto a Hamilton fire truck that was waiting
to take him back to the station.
"He had his head out the window, smiling and waving at everyone,"
said firefighter Joe Stamper. "It was so great to see him like that."
With a broad smile, Gabbard entered the fire station and hung up his
jacket and helmet, a symbolic gesture signaling the end of his shift -
something he'd been waiting to do since the accident.
"That felt good," he said.
It's not clear when Gabbard and Hansbauer will return to duty. Both
will continue physical therapy at their homes.
Hamilton Fire Chief Joe Schutte said the department's investigation
into the accident should wrap up in the next two to three weeks.
PREVIOUSLY POSTED ON THE SAR DIVER FORUM:
> HAMILTON, Ohio -- A Hamilton firefighter who nearly died last week
in a training accident is improving, officials said.
> Chris Gabbard, whose boat flipped over during a water-rescue
training exercise, was pulled underwater by ducts in a dam for at
least 20 minutes and has been in critical condition at University
Hospital ever since.
> Fire department officials said Gabbard was able to move his hands
and toes Thursday morning, and doctors removed him from a ventilator
for 15 minutes on Tuesday.
> John Hansbauer, another firefighter injured during the exercise,
has been transferred to Drake Rehabilitation Center to recover from a
THE FOLLOWING CHRONICALS THE RECOVRY OF FIREFIGHTER CHRIS GABBARD WHO WAS CRITICALLY INJURED DURING A SWIFTWATER TRAINING EXERCISE ON APRIL 17, 2007.
> Firefighter Chris Gabbard was critically injured Tuesday afternoon
> during a river rescue training exercise at the low level dam on
> Neilan Blvd. (River Road).
> After being pulled from the river Chris was taken to Fort Hamilton
> where he was stabilized. He was then flown by air-care to
> Hospital in Cincinnati. He was heavily sedated to keep him from
> moving and his body temperature was kept low with cooling blankets.
> As of Wednesday evening, his vital signs were holding steady and he
> was gradually being warmed. The doctors did a full body Cat-scan
> later in the evening and were encouraged by the results. Throughout
> the night his vital signs and his kidney and liver functions
> Thursday 4/19/2007 - 11:30am
> Chris is still in critical condition, but is stable for now.
> He is on a ventilator but is breathing 50% on his own.
> They administered Blood Pressure medication and his BP is returning
> to normal
> He was and is still sedated to keep him from moving.
> They are pumping fluids from his stomach.
> They are waiting to do dialysis.
> The Cat-scan was favorable but the doctors are waiting for more
> Thursday - 5:45pm
> They are starting dialysis to aid his kidneys.
> The doctors are pleased that there is NO swelling of the brain or
> around the spinal column.
> Thursday - 8:30pm
> The doctors have decided to put Chris on dialysis 24 hours a day to
> make it easier on his system.
> Chris seems to be doing better. Michelle was with him a few minutes
> ago and saw him move his foot. This is the first movement he has
> made since being weaned off sedation.
> Friday 4/20/2007 - 3:20pm
> Chris has been moved to an air bubble bed for comfort. The doctors
> determined he did not need the special bed any longer.
> His lungs are much improved.
> The dialysis is working well.
> He has moved his feet, legs and head.
> The doctors are going to wait another 48-72 hours until all the
> medication is out of Chris' system to assess when to start waking
> Chris' doctors said, "It is a miracle that he has come this far."
> Saturday 4/21/2007 – 10:00am
> Chris had an uneventful night.
> His blood pressure, breathing and dialysis are good.
> He made some facial expressions and squeezed his mother's hand.
> Faye said he was snoring which the doctor say is a sign he is
> sleeping on his own.
> The doctors said, "All positive signs."
> Saturday 4/21/2007 – 1:00pm
> My wife and I went in the ICU with Chris' dad Jim. Several times,
> Chris turned his head toward his dad and opened his eyes and
> to be looking at him. He opened and moved his mouth as if to try to
> say something. Of course he couldn't due to the tubes in his
> throat. To say the least, we were excited.
> (from the Webmaster)
> Connie Knodel and Allison went in to see Chris and tell me that
> rolled his head to both sides, opened his eyes fully and moved his
> left hand significantly.
> Mom (Faye) is happy with how Chris is progressing and says, "Just
> keep praying."
> Our God is great!
> Sunday 4/22/2007 – 8:00am
> · Jim spent the night with Chris and says it was uneventful
> (that's good) and he was resting comfortably.
> · Chris is moving around more in bed.
> · The Doctors are going to start weaning him off the
> ventilator (the tube down his throat) and put him on a CPAP ( a non-
> intrusive breathing aid)
> Monday 4/23/2007 – 10:30am
> Faye reports that Chris is resting/sleeping better now that they
> restricted his visiting hours. He had another uneventful night.
> What swelling he had seems to be going down.
> His cough is stronger
> He has been taken off 24 hour dialysis and they will now do dialysis
> 3 times a week.
> The doctors have decided to leave the ventilator and breathing tube
> until he wakes up.
> On another note: the Middletown Fire Department brought Chris a T-
> shirt signed by all the Middletown Firefighters.
> Tuesday 4/24/2007 – 11:30am
> Chris was taken off the ventilator today for about 15 minutes to
> check whether he could breath on his own. The doctors said he
> exceeded their expectations.
> They started Chris on nutrition last night and he is taking it well.
> Wednesday 4/25/2007 – 9:30am
> They did CPAP trials on Chris last night for about 45 minutes. His
> couldn't handle more. They did NOT try him off vent today.
> They plan on doing an MRI today at 2:30.
> Wednesday 11:30am - Faye called with a brief update…
> They have increased Chris' nutrition and his Temperature and BP are
> Wednesday 8:30pm - Faye called with exciting news…
> Chris' liver working fine now
> They have not done the MRI yet
> The Doctor asked Chris to move his toes – and he did!
> To move his left hand – and he did!
> To move his right hand – and he did!
> This is the first time he has moved anything when asked to by the
> -9:30pm CORRECTION – They did do the MRI and are awaiting the
> Friday 4/27/2007 – 11:00am
> At 7:30 this morning Chris had a tracheotomy so they could remove
> breathing tube from his mouth. He is resting more comfortably now.
> He has pneumonia and is receiving breathing treatment through the
> tracheotomy tube which is easier for him.
> They will be taking the feeding tube out of his nose and putting it
> in his stomach, which also will make him more comfortable.
> His eye movement has increased and his fever is down – all good
> Saturday 4/28/2007 – 2:30pm
> Chris had a restful night Friday night
> He still has pneumonia and a low grade fever
> He is opening his eyes and looking around.
> There are two other firefighters that need prayer also.
> John Hansbauer was injured in the same incident as Chris is also in
> University Hospital with head and leg injuries and cannot walk. He
> has a couple of blood clots in his legs but the doctors say he may
> get to go home early this week.
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06-12-2007, 08:35 PM #1
FF survives near drowning (30 minutes submerged)
06-14-2007, 07:44 AM #2
What an unfortunate incident. I hope these firefighters are back on the job soon where they belong. I hope they have a speedy recovery.
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