Fearcrusher Brandon Irwin
For blazing a trail through the snow to save a dying man’s life
By Thomas Francis
First responders are used to playing the role of hero; but every now and then, they need someone to come to their aid. That was the case for ambulance crew members in Boone County, Missouri, who had the good fortune of crossing paths with a man named Brandon Irwin.
Irwin works for the county’s Public Works Department, driving a snow plow. The 28-year-old man was called in to duty on February 21, in response to a massive snowstorm that that had rumbled across the Great Plains to strike Central Missouri.
At some point during his route, Irwin saw an ambulance, its lights ablaze, slide across his path. It was struggling to drive through the rising snow toward the hospital. The ambulance driver spotted Irwin’s plow, then leaped out.
Irwin told the local newspaper that he didn’t completely understand the medical jargon that the ambulance driver used, but it was perfectly clear that a life was in danger. A man was lying in a gurnee in the back of the ambulance, and next to him was his wife, her face wracked with fear and grief.
Irwin climbed back into his truck, threw down his plow, and made a beeline for University Hospital, with the ambulance following the freshly cleared path. Later, Irwin sheepishly admitted that he was going so fast, his plow must have accidentally thrown a wall of snow over some unlucky pedestrians. But his adrenaline was pumping, and this was no time to worry about small courtesies.
A snow plow, similar to the one in this file photo, was driven by Brandon Irwin and used to clear a path to the hospital for an ambulance carrying a
man in critical condition. Image courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation.
Against the driving snow, this makeshift convoy traversed the two and one-half miles to the hospital, then they whisked him off to an operating room. Emergency room physicians had just enough time to save the man’s life. He had had a heart attack, and the difference between life and death was minutes, if not seconds.
For his part, Irwin insists that the EMTs who treated the man deserve to be regarded as the real heroes. All the same, Boone County commissioners are determined to honor Irwin’s deed with a community service award.
Another ambulance crew, however, was not so lucky. In the midst of a blizzard that hit the East Coast on February 16, a crew of EMTs was transporting a man from Old Saybook, Conn., who had suffered a heart attack.
In anticipation of the blizzard, the governor had ordered the state’s drivers to stay off the roads, so that they would be more safe for emergency vehicles. But not all drivers would heed that order. The Shoreline Times reported that the ambulance was trying to drive over an unplowed highway when a car pulled out in front of it. The two vehicles swerved, narrowly avoiding a collision, but before continuing to the hospital, the EMTs had to check to make sure the passengers of that car were not injured.
The crew climbed back in their ambulance and headed to an emergency room in Essex, which was 30 miles away. But there were two feet of freshly fallen snow on the only highway that would get them to their destination. And to make matters worse, the ambulance was again hampered by careless drivers, one of whom ran the ambulance off the road, getting it stuck.
Snow plows were called in to clear a path for the ambulance, and the patient was moved to a police SUV, but too much time had passed. Shortly after they reached the hospital, the man died.
There is no way to know of the patient would have survived if not for those drivers who delayed the ambulance; but it’s safe to say that first responders would prefer that more people responded to a storm the way that Brandon Irwin did: by doing whatever he could to help others, rather than help himself.
In ths spirit of recognizing the good Samaritans of the world, check out this video below, which tells of a group of neighbors near Kansas City who last week saw an ambulance stuck in their street and who hustled to dig it out and send it on its way.