McCrabb: This traumatic ambulance accident leads to lasting friendships

There they were two Lebanon paramedics, one driving the Lebanon ambulance, the other in the back caring for a female stroke victim.

It was a normal squad run. Pick up the patient, access her medical needs and transport her to Atrium Medical Center. Then return to the fire station and wait for the next call.

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But around 8 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2018 — about an hour into their shift — the lives of Jesse McPherson and Emily Reynolds and their patient, Marjorie Bottorff, and her husband, Dale, literally flipped upside down.

In an instant, McPherson, 36, a Lebanon firefighter/paramedic, and Reynolds, 22, a Lebanon emergency medical technician, went from medical providers to patients.

They were traveling on Ohio 122 outside Red Lion in Clearcreek Twp. with their lights and sirens activated on the way to Atrium Medical Center. The driver of a Ford F-250 truck, traveling east on Ohio 122, apparently didn’t see a car had pulled off to yield to the oncoming ambulance.

The truck clipped the side of the Infiniti G37, driven by a Franklin teen, and collided head-on with the ambulance. The ambulance veered off the road, flipped on its side, and could have flipped several times if it hadn’t been punctured by a fire hydrant, said Reynolds.

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The driver of the truck, Jesse C. Jones, 21, of Lebanon, later pleaded guilty to driving left of center. He paid $150 in fines in court costs in Warren County Court, according to court records.

On Wednesday night, 15 months after the accident, the two paramedics were reunited with the Bottorffs and their son, Nicholas, during the inaugural Survivors Banquet at Atrium Medical Center. When the Bottorffs arrived for dinner, they were warmly greeted by the Lebanon paramedics.

Strangers before that fateful morning, they have remained close thanks to social media. Surviving such a traumatic accident has a way of bringing people together.

“A hell of a way to meet people,” Dale Bottorff, 64, said with a smile. “They really are good people.”

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Their friendship could have only lasted a few minutes if the scenario played out differently.

Consider, before the medical run, Reynolds and McPherson switched from a small medical unit to the largest one available. Then, seconds before the accident, Reynolds screamed as she saw the truck in her lane, and that made her partner stand up and look out the ambulance.

McPherson can only wonder what would have happened if Reynolds hadn’t screamed or if the ambulance hadn’t landed on that hydrant.

“The stars kind of aligned,” McPherson said. “Could have been much worse.”

“Fate,” Dale Bottorff said.

McPherson, the only one in the ambulance not wearing a seat belt, broke his neck and suffered a substantial head laceration. He was covered with blood.

“It was horrible,” Reynolds said.

McPherson had two surgeries, three months of physical therapy and was off work for seven months. He returned to work in September. He credited his Atrium team for his recovery from a severe neck injury, enabling him to return to the only job he ever wanted.

Reynolds, a 2013 Kings High School graduate, broke her ankle and had three months of physical therapy and two months of light duty.

Dale Bottorff wasn’t seriously injured, but his 53-year-old wife fractured her back in five places. She was hospitalized at Miami Valley for five weeks, then received physical therapy at home. She’s scheduled begin outpatient physical therapy at Atrium. She walks with a cane, and her speech remains slurred.

“A long road,” her husband said.

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Dr. Keith Bricking, president of Atrium Medical Center, said the medical team responds to hundreds of cases like the nine that were highlighted at Wednesday’s banquet.

“When we see how someone has triumphed over tragedy,” he said, “that is our greatest reward. As medical experts, we can treat the traumatic medical conditions each of our honorees suffered, but where they are today is also due in part to their fortitude and determination, along with those who supported them on this journey.”

These four won’t soon forget how their journey began.

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