On the day of their automobile accident, on April 29, 2011, the Dougherty sisters of St. James – Tiffany, then 18, Regina (“Reg,” she’s lovingly referred to by her parents, Art and Brenda), 14, and Hope, 12 – unwittingly created what most people would consider to be the perfect recipe for disaster:
Take three kids, add one minivan, and be sure to trim away any excess (unworn) safety belts from the vehicle and what you get is every parents’ worst nightmare come true.
Luckily for the sisters Dougherty, a side of Mayo was added just in time.
The Mayo Health System, that is.
It seems easier, maybe even safer to make clever puns, one year later, but at the time and scene of the accident, it was no laughing matter.
The minivan had rolled over three times before coming to a stand-still, but not before both of the younger girls had been catapulted out of the vehicle.
Tiffany was in tears, Reg was in a daze, while Hope, with two punctured lungs, a broken back, left leg and left arm, was ever-so-close to being lost forever.
The aftermath of the accident, however, was a textbook-perfect example of how effective a team of volunteers and professionals can be when pressed to the test.
This was the subject of a Mayo-sponsored event held on May 24 in Mankato, where the girls and all of the major players of that day were brought in to celebrate the bravery and effectiveness of the sisters and Mayo, respectively.
“The EMTs wanted to show the results, that they did their job and they did a good job of it,” explained Art Dougherty. “They never get to see the outcome, a lot of the time. So, then, they brought in the St. James Fire Department, they brought the EMTs, they brought the dispatcher and the Sherriff. They all got awards for outstanding [work], for doing their job the right way and to see that Tiff and Reg and Hope – that they were all walking.”
Of course, at the time, while there was plenty of shock to go around, there was very little optimism.
“The Sherriff told me ‘when we got that 911 call that three girls rolled the van and two were ejected, I thought for sure we were going to be rolling out body bags. I never thought it would turn out this well,’” said Art.
What the thankful parents want people to know is that if it weren’t for the excellent and efficiently trained group of medical professionals, things certainly could have “rolled” that way.
“That’s what I’d like to get across” said Art. “Those guys go all day and they’re not getting paid to be EMTs. They volunteer, they do their job. They give up their family lifestyle ... and to me, you never know when it’s going to happen to you until it does; and sooner or later, it does happen to somebody. With Mayo there, I learned so much that day. Everybody gets their bill and goes ‘oh, $7,000 for a [helicopter] flight?!’ but they never realize – I never realized it – that those guys are on call 24 hours a day and they live in that building! When they get that 911 call, no matter what, the first thing the pilot does is check the weather out, before they even get the greenlight. If he can fly that chopper in the weather and he gets that greenlight ... they’ve got their plasma and everything right there, so they can fly it to the scene, in case they needed blood or plasma for any of these girls, it’s all there, but people don’t realize that. Those people are there 24/7!”
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