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November 17, 2021

Patient grateful for LifeLine rescue after tragic crash

IU Health Methodist Hospital

Patient grateful for LifeLine rescue after tragic crash

It’s been a year since Sherri Dugger suffered a stroke that caused her to lose control of her vehicle and crash into a tree. Now, she’s thanking the emergency crew who saved her life.

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

One year ago, on the morning of Nov. 24, 2020, Sherri Dugger’s life was put on hold. She was trapped inside her 2016 Chevrolet Malibu just one mile from her Hancock County home. On Saturday, evening Nov. 13, 2021, she was again just one mile from her home.

This time, Dugger, who turned 60 in February, met the rescue team members who saved her life. With the help of a walker, she made her way across the room and presented two LifeLine crewmembers with a plaque. The keepsake was inscribed with the words: “Thank you for your service and for saving my life.”

The token of appreciation was nice but for Kelly Wallace and Jason Maxwell the highlight was meeting Dugger. She immediately asked if she could hug them.

“This is my first reunion with a patient. We typically drop them off and that’s the last we see of them. I’m just glad we were able to help,” said Wallace, who has been a nurse for 15 years. She joined LifeLine five years ago.

“Working for LifeLine was my dream when I became a nurse,” said Wallace.

“I absolutely love my coworkers. They are some of the most talented providers I've ever worked with, and they have become my second family. I love the work that we do as well. With our resources and equipment, we can care for the sickest patients and get them where they need to be.”

And on that chilly November morning, Jason Maxwell who has been with LifeLine for six years joined Wallace. He started his career as a volunteer firefighter, became an EMT, and then a paramedic.

It was years of experience that trained the team to respond quickly to the most critical situations.

Dugger left her home just before 10 a.m. on that Tuesday morning. She was headed to a Chevrolet dealership for car service. She doesn’t remember a whole lot but family members shared that she suffered a stroke, swerved on a curve, lost control of her car and plowed head on into a tree.

Within minutes, a LifeLine helicopter was summoned to the scene along with other local emergency responders. It took about 15 minutes to extract Dugger from her mangled car. She suffered multiple injuries to her chest, abdomen and right side including her hip, leg, knee and foot.

At IU Health Methodist Hospital, Dugger was stabilized and went through countless surgeries. In all, she remained hospitalized and in rehabilitation for 150 days.

“That week is a blur. She was passed from the trauma team to the ortho team and everyone in between. She had about six surgeries in one week and at least two that were several hours long,” said her husband, Gary. The couple married 41 years ago. They have two sons – Brian and his wife, Erin, have two children, and Zach and his wife, Casey, have one daughter.

On the anniversary of her accident, Dugger rented out the local New Palestine Lion’s Club, close to her home. Her husband, sons, and grandchildren, several other family members and friends joined rescue workers for the celebratory meal.

“It’s a blessing, it’s a miracle – every word you can think of – that she is alive,” said her son, Brian. “It started with cookies and morphed into a meal. We wanted to really show our gratitude,” added her husband.

As she made her way around the room greeting her guests, Dugger was all smiles.

“I still have some pain but it’s nothing. I’m alive,” she said. “God was watching over me but he was also watching over my rescue workers. I want to bless them and wish them nothing but the best.”

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