KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Eight Rural Metro Fire crew members received a prestigious award on Friday for going “above and beyond” to save a woman’s life after a serious crash on East Emory Road in North Knoxville last April.
Madison Harber, the woman whose life they saved, pinned the Phoenix Medal Award on Rural Metro firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians Dean Watham, Shane Chapman, Dempsey Harshaw, Robbie Nix, Garrett Dobbs, Eric Bradshaw, Randy Wilson and Scott Roberts. Harber was joined by Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and Rural Metro Fire Chief Jerry Harnish.
First responders don’t often get to see the people they help once they leave the scene of a crash. In Harber’s case, it didn’t seem possible because paramedics didn’t think she would survive her injuries. On April 15, Harber was in a serious crash on East Emory Road.
“I completely didn’t see it coming. I was turning left onto East Emory Road heading to work. I was pretty much t-boned directly on my driver’s side door,” Harber said.
Lieutenant Randy Wilson, a paramedic for Rural Metro, was one of the eight who responded that night. He was in command, and said it was a very chaotic scene.
“There were multiple bystanders and witnesses telling us to, ‘hurry, hurry, hurry.’ The driver of the vehicle that was critical, she was severely injured,” Wilson said.
He said Harber was what they called a ‘load and go.’ She was within the “golden hour,” meaning she needed to get out of the car and to a hospital as quickly as possible in hopes she has a better outcome. Wilson said she was pinned in the vehicle. While some first responders worked to get her out, others worked to keep her from losing more blood.
“C-Spine, C-Collar, fluids, IVs, oxygen. And once we gained better access to her leg, that’s when we applied the tourniquet to keep her alive when we got her out,” Wilson said.
Eric Bradshaw, a firefighter and paramedic with Rural Metro, was one of those first responders trying to keep Harber alive. He said they couldn’t tell the extent of her injuries until they got the door off the car.
“We knew that we had to move quickly,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said he used his whole arm to cover her wound. Harber’s blood pressure was dropping fast, and the tourniquet wasn’t enough. Ironically, Rural Metro had just received new ‘Stop the Bleed’ training and supplies the week before, including Tranexamic acid (TXA) and special clotting gauze. Bradshaw said Wilson had everything ready to go, they just needed to find where the bleed was and get to work.
“When we’d seen exactly where the big bleed was in the wound, we put the quick clot directly on that, and then just the rest of the sterile gauze was able to pack the whole wound channel and stop the bleeding. And then we could use fluids and TXA to help replenish what she already lost,” Bradshaw said.
He said he truly believes the TXA, which is a clotting agent, and the special gauze is was truly helped save Harber’s life and leg. Harber doesn’t remember much from the crash. Bradshaw is relieved about that since he said he couldn’t give her any pain medicine.
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Harber has now learned just how much work–from the first responders to the hospital staff–went into saving her life.
“It’s definitely a miracle that I’m here today, and it’s thanks to them. My gratitude can’t show enough through my words, but I’m very, very happy to be here,” Harber said.
Harber said she’s had 12 major surgeries since the crash. She’s had a muscle flap, skin graph and lots of therapy to get where she’s at now. She said she couldn’t be more proud to pin the Phoenix Medal Award on her heroes and physically be able to hug them.
“I didn’t realize what all went into it, but they’re true heroes and they save lives every day and I can’t imagine what they see and have to go through to make that happen.”Madisen Harber, crash survivor
Those heroes couldn’t be more excited to see their hard work pay off and know they were able to save Haber’s life and her leg.
“I mean, normally we’re with someone in their worst time for 10 to 15 minutes and then we never see them again. So it was very good to see her actually walk out an talk to us,” Wilson said.
“The fact that she’s walking today is amazing that means more than any award or anything they can give us,” Bradshaw said.