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It was his second time to board a LifeLine helicopter and this time, Brandon Stuckwish was smiling alongside the crewmembers that came to his rescue.
By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, firstname.lastname@example.org
On a recent Friday around noon, Brandon Stuckwish climbed aboard a LifeLine helicopter. The last time he was inside the aircraft was around 10 p.m. on a Thursday night in July.
That wasn’t the only difference. The last time Stuckwish was a passenger critically injured in an accident in Jackson County, just northeast of Seymour, Ind. Stuckwish was reportedly driving his prized red 2006 Chevy pickup truck when he lost control. The vehicle flipped several times, landing in a soybean field. Stuckwish was thrown several feet from the vehicle. Three teen passengers were also injured.
Stuckwish’s condition was critical. His injuries included a broken leg and arm, cracked ribs, and fractured spine. He lost consciousness a number of times at the scene. He remained at Methodist Hospital for two weeks and in rehab for three more weeks.
“We were first told if he made it, he’d probably have one surgery every day for two weeks. He didn’t wake up until day six,” said his mom, Kelli Jo Stuckwish. “A lot of things went wrong that night but a lot of things went right,” said his dad, Ryan Stuckwish.
On the recent Friday when Brandon Stuckwish, visited the downtown LifeLine heliport, some of those things that went “right” became crystal clear.
First there was a warm welcome by crew who flew to Stuckwish’s aid – LifeLine nurse, Mike Boone, paramedic, Shawn McClaughry, and pilot Ivan Brentin.
The reunion with Stuckwish was a first for Boone who has worked with LifeLine for eight years. He was an intensive care nurse before joining LifeLine. “I think it’s a fulfilling job and at this level, it’s also challenging. I appreciate it and get a lot of fulfillment when you see outcomes like Brandon’s,” said Boone.
Stuckwish, who turns 18 in November, shook hands with the three men and offered, “thanks” for their lifesaving efforts. It hit home with McClaughry, a father to six children ranging in age from 13 to 24. He began his medical training in the Army and became a paramedic 20 years ago. He’s been with LifeLine for eight years. “It’s mentally and physically challenging and pushes you to want to do more,” said McClaughry. A former Marine pilot, Brentin has been with LifeLine for 15 years.
On the night of Stuckwish’s accident Brentin landed the helicopter on a nearby soccer field. He said the weather was pleasant; the flight was calm. But when the crew landed they quickly realized Stuckwish was agitated and in severe pain. During the minutes on the scene they focused on helping him relax and stabilizing him for transport to IU Health Methodist Hospital
At Methodist he was met by the trauma team including surgeon Dr. Ashley Meagher. Stuckwish became the first successful patient at IU Health to receive a treatment called REBOA, resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta. It is a technique using a balloon catheter that temporarily stops the bleeding.
“Without every single person involved, Brandon wouldn’t be here today. He needed attention and he needed it fast. Every time I hear a helicopter, I look up and thank God,” said his mom.
A small scar over his right eye, a back brace, and a slight limp are the only visual indicators of the accident that nearly claimed his life. But, in his mind and his heart, Stuckwish holds tight to lessons learned.
As a senior at Brownstown Central High School, he talks openly to friends about making good choices. He tells them how things can change in a split second. He also focuses on a future that is full of promise.
He’s taken courses in welding and manufacturing and enjoys doing farm work with his dad and helping with his uncle’s power washing business. After graduation he hopes to pursue a career in trades. In his spare time he loves to fish and recently enjoyed catching red snappers during a trip to Florida.
He’s still not back behind the wheel driving but when he’s ready he’d love to buy his dream vehicle – a 1985 red and white Chevy pick-up truck. In the meantime, he’s working to fix up a 1995 Dodge Cummins.
“Honestly, I’d love to have my red truck back,” said Stuckwish. “But after everything, I know that’s not possible and I’m just glad to be alive.”
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