In The News

Bob Eibert: A Defenders of Tomorrow story

Nov 30, 2017, 10:09 AM by Kate Krumm

Injured in wreck, truck driver thanks the crew who saved him

Truck driver Bob Eibert was running late, navigating a tanker of milk toward a cheese plant just outside Ithaca, New York.

As he rounded a corner, he thought he saw a car in his path in the dark. He swerved, and his truck rolled over. The crash threw him halfway through the windshield.

Badly injured and bleeding, the Skaneateles, New York, man might well have died if Bangs Ambulance had not called the  Air Methods Guthrie Air medevac crew to whisk him to a hospital in their helicopter.

“You never think anything is going to happen to you, and then your life changes in a second,” Bob said, months after the accident.

Following the accident, Bob has spent much of his time thanking the crew and hospital caregivers who saved him —both writing letters and telling them in person. Bob exemplifies a miracle of 21st-century medical logistics: the ability to pluck patients from remote locations and fly them to receive the advanced care they need.

It’s a service people tend to take for granted—until their life depends on it.

By ambulance, Bob would have been at least 45 minutes from a qualified facility, said Matt DeLong, a flight nurse from Sayre, Pennsylvania, who responded to the accident. “It took us 12 to 15 [minutes] by helicopter,” he said.

The “golden hour”

On the night of the accident, Bob was running late. “I was just in a hurry,” he admits ruefully. “I was just stupid; I didn’t have a seatbelt on.”

The first 60 minutes after an injury are known as “the golden hour”—the time in which life-saving care can determine whether a patient survives and how serious the injuries are.

Adds Bob, “Minutes count, and the fact that the helicopter raced me to the hospital counted. ... They were all angels.”

Matt and Justin Baker, flight paramedic, got the call at the Air Methods base in nearby Sayre, Pennsylvania. At the scene, the tanker “was in the front yard of the house, and it didn’t miss the house by much,” Justin said.

Bob was lying in a snowbank, “his upper body through the windshield and his lower body still inside the cab,” Matt said.

Bob doesn’t recall feeling any pain. “I just remember somebody tugging on my feet, and somebody saying, ‘I’ve got his head,’” he said.

He gasped, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” Matt recalled.

Both of Bob’s lungs had collapsed, and he was suffering from head trauma, fractures in his neck and other major injuries. The flight nurse stuck a needle through his ribs to re-inflate the lungs, stabilizing vital signs.

“You’re here.”

When Bob woke up in an Intensive Care Unit, the bright light made him think he was lying on a sidewalk on a sunny day. A doctor said, “Tell me what happened.”

He replied, “I screwed up.”

“No,” the doctor said, “you’re here.”

In other words, he survived. Bob credits the care he received on the ground, in flight and in the hospital.

Chelsea DeLong, a physical therapist in Robert Packer Hospital, and Matt’s wife, said Bob was one of the most severe trauma cases she has ever handled. He had trouble rolling out of bed, standing and walking, but his heart was overflowing at the second chance at life.

“He’s got so much gratitude toward everything that everyone has done for him—and gratitude that he is able to live and do what he is able to do every day,” Chelsea said.

Bob is a man of faith, convinced he survived for a reason. He has an idea of what it took to keep him alive. A former U.S. marine, he spent 18 years as a registered nurse and was a volunteer fire department medic. (He also was a dairy farmer for 26 years.)

Giving thanks

He insisted on thanking everyone involved in his care, first in letters, then by visiting the flight crew at Sayre.

“Because of you guys,” he told them, “I’m still here.”

His wife, Betsy, said he was thrilled by the visit. It “meant so much to Bob to have that contact and ... have it be a concrete group of people he can show his gratitude to,” she said.

The flight crew was also delighted with the visit. “In the 12 years I’ve been in New York working, this is the first time it’s ever happened, so it’s kind of nice,” Justin said.

The crew had a little gift for Bob. They took him on a helicopter flight—this time seated up front by the pilot.

“You can’t put a price on a life,” Bob said. “Thankfully, because of you guys, I’m still here. ... So many people don’t get that chance.”