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When Every Second Counts

When Every Second Counts
Sharon Deloach with her rehab team: (standing) Charisse Wakeland, Nicole Boyle (seated), Ashley Myers

On November 21, 2016—three days before Thanksgiving—Sharon DeLoach was turning 600 feet away from pulling into her driveway on LA Hwy 66 in West Feliciana parish when an oncoming car veered out of its lane and slammed into her headlong. According to the accident report filed by West Feliciana Hospital Ambulance Service the time was 7:39 pm. After that things happened fast.

  • 7:47 pm: A call to 911 reported a severe two-vehicle accident on Hwy 66. Both occupants were trapped in their cars. The 911 dispatcher alerted both West Feliciana EMS and Lifeteam Air Evac – a helicopter air-med service with bases in Opelousas, LA, and Natchez, MS, which thanks to funding from West Feliciana Hospital with help from the sheriff’s and fire department, and the parish provides free (or substantially reduced) helicopter air-med services.
  • 7:48 pm: One minute later, with first responders en-route to the crash site, an Air Evac lifeteam lifted off from the Natchez base and headed for West Feliciana.
  • 7:58 pm: First responders arrived on the scene, and ascertained within moments that the victims’ injuries called for an Air Evac to Baton Rouge. Sharon’s right arm was badly injured, her legs and lower body pinned beneath the dash. As first responders began the arduous process of cutting her free of the vehicle, the helicopter paramedic team were in the air, awaiting instructions regarding a rendezvous point.
  • 8:47 pm: With Sharon free of her car and in an ambulance speeding towards St. Francisville, first responders contacted Air Evac again with a 15-minute ETA at the West Feliciana Sheriff’s office helipad.
  • 9 pm: Sharon was stabilized and airborne, headed for the emergency room at Baton Rouge’s Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center at 160mph.

That’s how limbs, and lives, are saved.

Remarkable First Responders

When every second counts, the team of Emergency Medical Service first responders in West Feliciana respond with maximum effectiveness thanks in part to the life-saving service of the Air Evac service. “Air Evac is in the air as soon as a call comes in that might run the risk of needing their services,” explained West Feliciana EMS Director Chris Fitzgerald, a seasoned first-responder with more than 28 years’ experience. “If we arrive at the scene and determine Air Evac isn’t needed, we notify them immediately. In the past, we may have been charged $10,000 if they lifted off, but Air Evac sees every call as a training opportunity, so there is no charging the hospital. As a first responder that’s comforting; when every second could mean saving a life I’d rather err on the side of caution, and have them in route without major financial implications.”

Quick Response: better outcome

Even with that quick response, Sharon’s injuries were bad. Both of her legs were crushed, her ribs were broken, one lung collapsed, and she suffered nerve damage to her right arm. After a five-week stay at OLOL, multiple surgeries, and another month of intensive physical therapy, Sharon was ready to begin the long journey towards recovery. And to doing so close to home.

It wasn’t an easy road. In the two years following the accident, despite needing additional surgeries to her legs and left ankle (now made of titanium,) Sharon has made steady progress towards recovery. Working with a committed team of physical and occupational therapists at West Feliciana Hospital’s outpatient and physical therapy department, St. Francis Rehabilitation Services, she regained strength, stamina, and confidence in her body, and did it just a few miles from home. Her team developed a complex and aggressive rehabilitation program that addressed the particular challenges her injuries created.

Metal Hardware
Sharon shows off the metal hardware that was used to help her leg heal.

Life Goes On …

Two years later, Sharon has come a long way. She’s driving again, and active as a master gardener and member of the Feliciana Country Gardeners. She volunteers for 4H with the Feliciana Master Gardeners, is a member of the Strong Women Exercise Group, a participant in OLLI Continuing Education programs, and plays a mean game of croquet with the Panache Croquet Club. To see how she got there, click HERE to learn more about the services offered at West Feliciana’s outpatient and physical therapy department, St. Francis Rehabilitative Services.

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