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A look back at LifeLine rescue of crash victim: “A life-defining moment”

IU Health Methodist Hospital

A look back at LifeLine rescue of crash victim: “A life-defining moment”

It was in the early morning hours when LifeLine flight nurse Mike Collins was summoned to a crash scene near Columbus, Ind. What happened during that rescue left a significant impact on the life of the victim and the rescue crew.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

On a recent Thursday morning in October IU Health LifeLine flight nurse Mike Collins answered his cell phone. He responded to questions about an incident that happened two years ago, reciting details as if it just happened hours earlier.

It was a rescue he will never forget.

When Collins and his flight crew arrived at the scene near Columbus, Ind. they immediately recognized the challenges – it was dark and there were downed power lines. They landed the helicopter and jumped aboard an emergency vehicle, where they drove about two miles to the accident victim. He was laying on a backboard in a front yard.

“His oxygen was low and we couldn’t clear the blood in his airways. When we got him in the ambulance, things went from bad to worse,” recalls Collins, who has been with LifeLine for seven years and was named “Critical Care Transport Nurse of the Year.” Prior to that he was an ER nurse at IU Health Methodist Hospital. His wife, Jackie Collins is a nurse at IU Health West. Together they have three teenagers, ages 13, 15, and 16.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 19, 2018, as he worked to save the victim, he thought of his own children. “Every time I fly out, the first thing on my mind is ‘this could be my kid,’” said Collins. On this night the victim was a 24-year-old young man named Jordan Shehan. Collins recognized immediately what he considers one of the greatest rewards of his job: “I deal with the sickest of patients and often we’re their last resort. There’s an excitement and a seriousness to remember all the things you trained for and be ready to act.”

What he trained for made the difference between life and death for Shehan. Collins performed an emergency Cricothyrotomy, an incision through the skin and cricothyroid membrane to establish an airway. “Thanks to IU Health, we have had a lot of training in a cadaver lab so we were ready when we needed to be,” said Collins, who was also an instructor for the training exercises. “It was a career-defining moment. I’ve never done that once in my career and there are many people who never do them in their career,” he said.

Last October, a year after the accident, Sheehan was able to thank Collins during a LifeLine reunion. They both look back on the details of that night in near disbelief that Sheehan walked away and is healthy to this day.

“It was awesome to see Mike and to thank him personally. We hugged and we cried,” said Shehan, who stays in contact with Collins and his wife through social media. “The people who work for LifeLine do a lot to go above and beyond for every patient. I’m living proof that the job they do is amazing.”

Shehan remembers little about the accident. He left work after his shift at Applebee’s restaurant and was on his way home to Hope, Ind., 15 minutes northeast of Columbus. Police reports indicate Shehan ran off the road and struck several mailboxes and a utility pole.

Once stabilized, he was transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital where he spent 60 days in ICU. He was in a coma for 20 of those days. Among his injuries were cracked ribs, a punctured lung and fractured vertebrae in his neck. Multiple surgeries followed.

But today, thanks to Collins and other LifeLine crewmembers, Shehan is back at work – a new job with a soft drink distributor. He also said he has a new girlfriend and has moved out of his parent’s home. And he is grateful to be alive. He’s even thinking about starting a support group for others who have been transported by LifeLine.

“It’s been real eye opening. I was 24 and perfectly healthy, a high school athlete, and it was rare for me to even get a cold. In the blink of an eye everything changes,” said Shehan. “It changed how I look at life. You can’t take any moment for granted because it could be your last. I’m hoping to reach out to others who have gone through similar situations as LifeLine patients. I think there is a lot we could relate about and learn from each other.”

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LifeLine

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