KRMC staff gets injured soldier home

Iraq veteran was stranded after Dec. 26 I-40 accident

KINGMAN - When one soldier's voyage home included a tragic setback in Kingman, the staff in the emergency room at Kingman Regional Medical Center made sure he got there.

On the morning of Dec. 26, three Army soldiers back from serving in Iraq were caught in an accident on Interstate 40 in their travels from Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles.

All three were brought to the emergency room at KRMC, said Public Relations Director Jamie Taylor.

"The ER was almost in a disaster mode because we had so many auto accidents," Taylor said.

One male soldier was medically evacuated by air ambulance to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. One female soldier was admitted to KRMC for surgery.

The 20-year-old male soldier was treated and discharged in the emergency room the same morning. The names of the soldiers were withheld by KRMC for privacy reasons.

Because of the automobile accident, the 20-year-old was stranded in the emergency room with nothing more than his dog tags and a cell phone, Douglas McEdwards said.

McEdwards, who is the emergency room social worker at KRMC, was working Dec. 26. He had regular contact and shared small talk with the soldier throughout the day.

"He sat in a wheelchair and stayed out of the way," McEdwards said.

KRMC gave the soldier a couple of meals throughout the day.

With access to the KRMC telephone, the soldier attempted to contact the local Red Cross chapter, as well as throughout Arizona and Texas, to no avail. He also contacted his family in Southern California, but was unable to convince them of the need for haste to buy a bus ticket, McEdwards said.

The last Greyhound bus leaving Kingman for Los Angeles that day was at 7:15 p.m. The soldier was able to obtain a waiver of the mandatory advanced reservation to be able to ride on the bus.

The towing yard also made an exception and opened just so the soldier could get his credit card and identification from the car, McEdwards said.

With his credit card, he tried to access funds at KRMC, but the ATM in the lobby was out of service all day. It was the first time he had ever seen it that condition, McEdwards said.

By 6:30 p.m., the soldier still hadn't come up with the funds to purchase the ticket, McEdwards said.

"We could see it wasn't going to happen," McEdwards said.

The clinical lead registered nurse, whom McEdwards declined to identify, said they weren't going to let him miss the bus. The registered nurses and certified nursing assistants started to collect money for a bus ticket.

"They raised $110 in five minutes to get the boy home for Christmas," Taylor said.

Though he didn't know the staff was gathering the funds, McEdwards said he felt the solider had some idea with all the staff running around.

When handed the envelope, McEdwards added the solider said, "I can't believe it. This is great. Thank you guys."

A nurse who had just gotten off duty offered to drive the serviceman to the bus station with McEdwards.

"As the serviceman left the ER, nurses and CNAs rose and applauded him - many with tears wetting their cheeks - to honor him for service to his country," McEdwards said.

They were able to get the soldier at the bus station in time for the trip.

"The faces on each of the nurses after he left," McEdwards said, "it was like they felt the emotion of having contributed to his welfare."

McEdwards called the soldier on Dec. 30 and found out the 20-year-old had made it home.

"We tried to help as much as we could," McEdwards said.

McEdwards said he was proud of the emergency room staff, a feeling echoed by emergency room Director Janet Gode and Chief Executive Officer Brian Turney. Both recognized the staff for their good deed.