Meet our 2018 MedEvac Foundation Patient of the Year,
“Mom, let’s go to the gym.”
It was 10:00 p.m. on the day after Christmas 2013, and 18-year-old Whitney Corby and her mother, Teresa Corby, had just returned from the movies. Because of the hour, Teresa had no interest in going to the gym, so Whitney went solo.
Just a short time later, Teresa received a call that Whitney had been in an accident. Her car had slid on black ice, left the roadway and wrapped around a tree. Critically injured, Guthrie Air was immediately requested and Whitney made a 15-minute flight to the closest trauma center, Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pennsylvania.
Arriving at the hospital, Whitney’s mom remembers a doctor saying, “I’m telling you right now, if she had not been flown down here, she would not be here today.”
It was only then that Teresa realized how seriously her daughter had been injured. For six days, Whitney lay in a coma as medical staff worked to save her while her loved ones kept vigil by her side, never giving up hope. However, following one MRI, her family was told, “You need to start to prepare because this is not going to be good.” But Whitney had other plans, and the next day, to everyone’s amazement, she woke up.
Whitney was then transferred to Golisano Neurology and Rehabilitation Center in Rochester, New York where she had to learn to walk, talk and eat again.
“Learning how to do everything all over again when you’re 18 years old…is really scary,” recalled Whitney.
As Whitney worked toward recovery, she began to think about her future and what she would do with the rest of her life. Working each day so closely with her nurses inspired her, and she made the decision to become a nurse herself. “Who better to do neuro,” she thought, “than somebody with neuro.”
The following year, Whitney entered the Binghamton University Decker School of Nursing and two years after that, she walked across the stage to accept her diploma. Watching her daughter, Teresa thought, “They told me to prepare to bury my child, and that if she did survive, she’d never walk…and now she’s a neuro nurse helping people.”
Like so many others, Sean Mitchell, flight paramedic on Whitney’s flight, marvels at Whitney’s recovery. “She is the incredible story, without a doubt,” he said. Because she wanted to meet her rescuers, the base invited her to an LZ class. The crews were impressed with her lack of self-pity and how hard she has worked toward her recovery. “She doesn’t feel that anything can stop her,” Sean said. “She’s an inspiration.”
Whitney and her mother know that, because they are rural residents, Whitney faced grim odds without air medical services. In these areas, there is an additional 22 percent risk of injury-related death due to the length of time it takes to reach appropriate medical care.
“It’s crazy how a helicopter can stand between you being alive and you being in a grave,” Whitney said. “The fact that people don’t have access to this really breaks my heart.”
Teresa can’t imagine how different things would have been without air medical. “I truly mean it when I say that if it wasn’t for them, she wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have her.”
2017 – Brandon Hale
In a small community, many residents have more than one job. Take Brandon Hale, for example. By day, Brandon is a lease operator in an oil field. As a resident of tiny Westbrook, Texas, Brandon and his family know that volunteers can be the difference between life and death, and between losing a home and saving it. With a heart for their community of 200 people, Brandon and his wife, Mindy, both serve on the Westbrook Volunteer Fire Department, with Brandon serving as the fire chief. Since firefighters often provide safe landing zones for Air Evac Lifeteam helicopters, the Big Spring Air Evac crew provides Landing Zone and Helicopter Safety Classes to the Westbrook Volunteer Fire Department.
“We became members of Air Evac in 2008, because not only do we live in a small town, we are not close to any big city,” Mindy said. “With Brandon’s work in the oil field, it is comforting to know that we can call for Air Evac when there is a major trauma.”
Westbrook does not have police department, so when a Sheriff’s Deputy responded to a domestic call on September 9, 2015, he asked Brandon for help searching for a suspect. Although he had just finished fighting a fire, Brandon answered the call.
“The suspect snuck around and attacked my husband from behind, stabbing him multiple times,” Mindy recalled. “My dad called me to let me know Brandon had been attacked, but I didn’t know he had been stabbed until I got to the ambulance. It was such a sense of relief, knowing we could call Air Evac and they could get him to a Level 1 trauma center quickly.”
Kevin Briley, flight paramedic with Air Evac 54 in Big Spring, remembered flying Brandon to University Medical Center in Lubbock.
“It’s certainly difficult to respond and fly someone who works as a first responder,” Kevin said. “This is someone who is volunteering to be there for his friends, family and neighbors 24/7. I saw the many stab wounds, and was most concerned about the injury to his eye.”
Brandon lost his left eye in the attack, but has otherwise recovered and is doing well. So well, in fact, that he attended an event in Westbrook that was also attended by Air Evac Lifeteam. Brandon heard Kevin speaking, and knew he was with the Big Spring crew.
“Brandon immediately recognized the voice that talked to him all the way to Lubbock that night,” Mindy said. “I am so thankful for Kevin and the Air Evac crew that took care of Brandon, and I am very thankful we are members. I tell everyone I know that they need to be members, too.”
2016 – Colonel Kelly Carter
Kelly Carter is an Executive Scientist with Engineering Solutions and Products as well as a Colonel in the Army Reserve. Colonel Carter is the Deputy Commander of the 311th Theater Signal Command, US Army Pacific. She is also adjunct faculty for the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Colonel Carter began her military career as a radio operator in the 138th Field Artillery, Kentucky National Guard in 1984. She received her commission from Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia and while in the Army, she has served in Hawaii, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Kelly’s overseas assignments have included Qatar, Egypt, and South Korea.
In her civilian capacity, she works within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, C3, Cyber, and Business Systems. She provides strategic and technical analysis, programmatic, and budgetary guidance on aspects of information technology, communications programs, spectrum actions, and major acquisition programs.
Colonel Carter’s story in her own words…
I had taken Friday off to make a four-day weekend for Memorial Day. My husband and I were spending time together before I departed for a short military assignment. It was a lovely day; sunny and mild, a day to take slowly and enjoy. We were driving our Miata convertible with the top down along the quiet back roads that are not traveled much. As we headed home, we came around a bend in the road. I caught a glimpse of an animal crossing the road. My husband instinctively hit the brakes and twitched the car slightly right. I saw fur. I felt us hit the animal. I felt the right tires slip off the narrow pavement, and in a heartbeat we slid down into the ditch. I closed my eyes tight. We began hitting brush and small trees then I heard a loud bang. Through my closed eyes, I saw a white flash and puff of white smoke. I kept my eyes closed tight. Everything seemed to be happening at once. For what seemed like an eternity, I felt my face being pelted by branches, dirt, and sand. There were many loud bangs, one after another, after another, as the car tumbled end over end. I thought to myself, I must relax so I can live through this. I never opened my eyes but kept feeling hits to my face, crunching of metal, and loud banging.
Then, I heard my husband say, “Kelly, can you move, we have to get out if you can.”
I realized the banging had stopped. That was the first time I opened my eyes. We had come to rest upside down facing the other direction, in an 8 ft. deep drainage ditch. I unbuckled my seat belt and grabbed the tall grass to pull myself out of the car. I immediately knew I had a spinal injury because I had no strength. My husband was on the low end of the car trying to turn the engine off so it would not catch fire. I sat above the car, in the ditch holding my head. I was bleeding from my ear – another bad sign. I had no phone, the maps had gone flying out of the car. I was trying to figure out how we would get help and tell someone where we were.
As my husband crawled out from under the car, miraculously, a North Carolina State Trooper pulled up with his lights flashing. I asked my husband if he could get to the other side of the ditch; he did, and spoke with the Trooper. When the paramedics and ambulance showed up they put me in a neck brace, and built a bridge across the ditch with a ladder. I sat on a backboard holding my head as they scooted me across the ditch, and then put both my husband and I in the ambulance.
In the emergency room, I could feel them methodically press my arms and legs checking for other broken bones. The next thing I knew the ER doctor was telling my husband, who was now standing beside me, that they were going to have to fly me via helicopter to a trauma center.
The local hospital could not handle my injuries. Shortly, the transport team arrived and prepped me for the helicopter flight.
In the helicopter, it was claustrophobic with all the medical equipment. Strapped to the gurney with my head immobilized, I began to vomit. The next thing I knew the back end of the helicopter opened. I never felt it touch down. At the trauma center, they diagnosed me with multiple fractures to my first and second cervical vertebrae. The spinal surgeon characterized my injuries as the hangman’s break. During the tumbling, we hit something hard enough that the car door on my side was torn away from the car in a downward direction. My right side from my waist to my knee was purple with bruising. Thankfully, between wearing the seat belts that restrained me inside the car and having a true certified roll bar that fended off the most vicious impacts, we were spared fatal injuries.
I spent the next five days in the hospital. I had four titanium screws inserted into my skull to immobilize my neck with a halo. I wore the halo for 12 weeks 24/7. I could not do much for myself, and for me, losing my independence was a horrifying experience. I could not bathe myself, I could not put on a shirt myself, I could not sit upright for any length of time, and I certainly could not drive. Often I needed help to change position. Luckily, I have a wonderful and understanding husband who took care of me through it all. He was kind, and empathetic, and tended to my every need, in spite of my less than good humor.
I am so blessed. I easily could have been killed, or paralyzed and I was not. I still have full use of both my arms and legs, I can still wiggle my fingers and toes, I can run my fingers through and feel my dog’s fur, and I can walk by myself. I was wearing my seat belt, so even though the car tumbled end over end, and my door was torn off, I stayed in the car. Thanks to an aftermarket Hard Dog M2 roll bar, even though we landed upside down and hit things hard enough to tear my door off the car, we were not crushed. My neck may never be the same – it may always hurt but I will never complain.
I am so thankful to my husband’s foresight to buy a convertible with a real roll bar, and to the several medical teams that tended to me. I am also thankful for the Metro Aviation pilot – his superlative skills and judgement, and to God for the opportunity to continue in this life.
2015 – Brian Dawes
Brian Dawes, a retired, 30 year veteran, from the City of Avalon Harbor Patrol Office and a LA County Fire Life Guard EMT-D, had called in a helicopter for patients many times, not knowing that a MedEvac transport would some day save his life.
When I arrived at the hospital at 7PM, I was “crashing” and required rapid assessment, fluids, antibiotics, supplemental steroids, morphine, and MedEvac was put on standby pending a CT scan of the abdomen. The scan showed “free air” in my abdomen, a sign of peritonitis. Mercy Air arrived 20 minutes later. I knew death was knocking at my door. The flight crew was fantastic to me and to my mother who accompanied me to Long Beach Memorial Hospital. On arrival I was rushed into surgery and was kept in a medically induced coma for nearly a week.