Tyler Gallagher remembers hearing the whomp-whomp sound of the GHS Med Trans helicopter landing near him last June, minutes after he’d been run over by a 30,000-pound truck in a work accident. The devastating trauma crushed his pelvic region, breaking bones and causing massive internal injuries and bleeding so severe, he said, “I could see my legs swelling up like water balloons.”
“When the flight crew started loading me on the gurney, I thought I just might survive after all,” said the 25-year-old N.C man, who returned with his father and brother to Greenville Health System today to thank the many people and organizations—including firefighters and paramedics, the flight team, surgical trauma teams, floor nurses and physicians, rehabilitation specialists and even blood donors—that helped save his life and give him the “best Thanksgiving ever.”
It was near the end of the work day on June 7, 2016, when Tyler jumped on the back of a fully loaded water truck to help guide the driver as he backed up the truck to the next manhole inspection point in Fountain Inn. Tyler was part of a drainpipe cleaning/video-inspection crew that was cleaning stormwater run-off pipes throughout the state.
“I’d already finished my video-surveillance portion of the job and just wanted to help out,” he said. Tyler slipped off the back of the truck as it started backing up and fell into the roadway. The truck, which had just been fully loaded with water, backed across his mid-section and upper legs before Tyler could roll away to safety.
First responders with the Fountain Inn Fire Department and Greenville County EMS arrived at the scene within three minutes, assessed the situation and immediately requested that the GHS Med Trans helicopter be dispatched. GHS Med Trans is one of fewer than 5 percent of medical helicopters in the nation approved to carry blood.
The helicopter arrived within six minutes, by which time the first responders already had begun treating Tyler with splints, oxygen and IVs and had him ready to fly out.
At this point, Tyler’s blood pressure was less than one-third what it should have been, and was continuing to drop. The flight crew started the blood transfusion as soon as he was loaded into the helicopter and gave him both units carried on board.
“This type of situation is exactly why we have spent a significant time investment to … allow blood and blood products to be available to patients on the helicopter,” said Sarah Fabiano, MD, an emergency physician at Greenville Memorial Hospital and the associate medical director for GHS Med Trans air ambulance service. “Our close relationship with GHS Med Trans and The Blood Connection allows us to provide life-saving blood transfusions at accident scenes, precious minutes before transfusions could be administered in the trauma center.”
Tyler remained conscious throughout the ordeal and still remembers what the first responders and flight crews said to him—still recalls how thankful he was for the motherly passerby who cradled his head and kept reassuring him that help was on the way. He remembers how hot it was lying on that concrete road as the sun beamed down on him, and how a paramedic gave him his own Oakley sunglasses, gently draping them across Tyler’s face, to help make him comfortable.
“People say you’re going to be OK, that everything’s going to fine, but I knew how bad I was hurt,” said Tyler. “I really did not think I was going to make it off that concrete. And then that helicopter landed, I thought I might still be saved. I might still be OK. But it also scared me. When I heard it, I thought, ‘Holy hell, I’m going on a helicopter. Oh Lord, I really am in trouble.’”
Tyler returned to Greenville to pay a debt of thanks he felt he owed to those who cared for him.
“I’m very, very thankful for everybody,” he said. “I just wanted to look at them and tell them—you guys are the reason I’m up and walking around today. You guys are the reason my brother, sisters and parents still have me. My doctor in Greensboro told me my bones couldn’t have healed any better if God Himself had done the surgeries.
Tyler was hospitalized at GHS for approximately one month, undergoing four major operations and multiple procedures. Back home in N.C., he’s continuing to do physical therapy several times a week.
For David Ellis, program manager of GHS Med Trans, cases like Tyler’s are a reminder of why he does what he does—but also why it’s critically important to have a great continuum of medical care, from first responders in the field through transport to leading-edge trauma care or hospitalization.
“Our communities benefit greatly from the seamless and world-class care that all of these providers are able to pull together and accomplish—not only with Tyler but for patients 24/7,” said Ellis.
“Med Trans is extremely grateful that our close working relationship with GHS allows us to provide care and treatment above the national standard to patients in the field,” added Ellis. “Our partnership helps provide happy outcomes that would not always be possible without GHS’ commitment to exceptional care in the community.”
Tyler, meanwhile, looks at life differently now. “Even if a family member is leaving the house for only a few minutes, I tell them that I love them,” he said. “Life is so short. Once you know that—I mean, really know that—it puts a whole new view on the way you look at life.”