A leisurely utility vehicle ride turned into a horrific medical emergency recently for a Portal family.
Nine-year-old Ethan Field suffered two skull fractures and a broken neck after falling off a Kawasaki Mule on June 16 while riding with his father John and three of his siblings. His injuries were deemed life-threatening, and the Air Evac Lifeteam crew was called to transport Ethan to Savannah Children’s Hospital in order to save his life.
With its stated mission of providing rapid access to health care following medical emergencies, Air Evac Lifeteam more than lived up to its mission, said Ethan’s mother, Misty Fields.
“Every second counted in Ethan’s case,” she said. “Literally, every second.”
Misty said Ethan was riding on the back of a Mule being driven by his father along a road in Portal. Although no one actually saw him fall, she said Ethan slid off the side of the vehicle, and his head hitting the pavement with what she described as a sickening thud.
John Fields called 911, and a ground ambulance crew was soon on the scene administering to the child.
“The back of his head started swelling like a grapefruit, and his breathing was shallow,” Misty said. “They knew he was badly injured and needed a CT scan.”
The Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter was summoned to Portal to meet the ground ambulance, and Ethan was transported by air ambulance to Savannah Children’s Hospital.
A CT scan at Savannah Children’s revealed two skull fractures, a broken neck and significant brain swelling. The initial prognosis wasn’t good, said Misty.
“We were told (at the hospital) that they couldn’t tell us for sure if he was going to pull through,” she said.
After putting Ethan into a medically-induced coma, doctors installed a bolt in the boy’s skull to further reduce the swelling. Ethan stayed in a coma seven days, a period of time that Misty said was “impossible to describe. It was just terrible.”
Ethan also contracted meningitis,and the Fields family was unsure about what Ethan’s mental and physical condition would be once awakened from the coma.
“There were so many ups and downs, it was just a roller coaster ride,” Misty said.
Ethan, however, proved resilient and strong. After being removed from the coma and the haze from the sedation lifted, doctors discovered he suffered no loss of memory or motor skill function.
“His neurosurgeon would just stand there and say ‘this is amazing,’ ” his mother said.
After a 16-day hospital stay, Ethan was released and returned home to Portal. Nearly six weeks removed from his ordeal, he is back to being his normal, active self, although still wearing a cervical collar, according to Misty.
In fact, Ethan’s resilient spirit was on display for the Air Evac Lifeteam crew of flight nurse Debra Carter, flight paramedic Brian Cobb and pilot Scott Beslin when the Fields family visited the base in July.
That afternoon the crew posed for pictures with the Fields family, showed off the aircraft to Ethan and his siblings and gave more detailed information about Ethan’s flight from a medical standpoint.
“It was very enlightening for us, and Ethan really enjoyed it,” Misty said. “They told him about the headphones they wear, and he got to sit inside the helicopter. It was just a great visit.”
Misty Fields said she has true appreciation for the skill and talent of the Air Evac crews after seeing their quick response following Ethan’s accident.
“I’m just so grateful for what they did for Ethan,” she said.