Firefighter reunites with girl he helped to save

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By Katelyn Sattler
Staff Writer

Hamilton Township firefighters, from left to right: Capt. John Blankenship, Rob Mango, Matt Cantrell, Lt. Cameron Lowe, Tyler Vorhees, Mike Riffle.

Vehicle crashes at Alum Creek Drive and I-270 are not unusual.

One particular crash stands out for Hamilton Township Fire Department Captain John Blankenship, who lives near this area. He had heard a lot of crashes there during the 19 years he had lived in his house with his wife and kids. This time, though, the scream was different. He came out of his house and saw a young lady frantically pacing around her car.
Blankenship took off running and jumped the fence to help.

The woman was pregnant and said her daughter was in the backseat. Blankenship told her to sit down, not knowing what kind of injuries she may have sustained. She sat down in the backseat of another vehicle that stopped to help, with the door open.

Blankenship asked a bystander to call 911. He climbed into the backseat. A little girl, about 3-years-old, had sustained a significant head injury and was unconscious.

“I put her head in a neutral and inline position so that she could breathe,” said Blankenship. “Another bystander had reached in and I asked him to cut the seatbelt for the car seat, which he did.”

As the medic crew rolled up, Blankenship and the bystander took the car seat out.

“I was holding her and the bystander was pulling the car seat,” said Blankenship. “We put it directly into the on-scene medic, which was our medic. I was off duty, so I jumped in with the crew in my civilian clothes and we immediately took off for Children’s Hospital. We ended up getting her airway secured and dropped her off.”

Blankenship said her blood pressure stayed stable.

“She was a little elevated, but from a vital standpoint, we put an Intraosseous access in her (which is like an IV but is drilled into the bone),” said Blankenship. “We just kind of treated her like a trauma patient, which is to give her fluid and protect her airway. So, we did all those things, dropped her off, and really didn’t think that much about it.”

Approximately three or four years later, a lady pushing a stroller with another little girl walking next to her approached some Hamilton Township firefighters and started to tell a story of how somebody helped her and her daughter at a car accident at Alum Creek and I-270 and that she never got a chance to meet them or thank them. One of the other captains pointed and said, “‘That’s the guy!’

“And so she explained to me that her daughter was doing really well,” said Blankenship. “She was doing well in school. She had a plate fit in her skull. The doctors told her that she was very lucky to be alive. She had to learn how to walk again, had to learn how to communicate again, had to learn how to eat on her own again. But she was doing very well. She asked if she could take a picture and I was like, yeah, sure! She said she had made a scrapbook and that was the last piece of the scrapbook that she needed. She was trying to get a photo of the person who had helped out. So it was nice. I got to give the little girl a hug and send her on her way. Like I said, when through all the deaths, through all the destruction, through all the negative things that happen in this career, you carry a lot of unwanted baggage. You see a lot of things that you don’t want to see. So when those times get heavy and burdensome, you have to be able to lean on something and it’s those kinds of runs that help get me through.”

When asked what paramedics do until they have that type of defining run, Blankenship said, “It’s not always those big things. We’ve had guys here that on their off day have gone to somebody’s house and noticed that there are trees growing out of this elderly woman’s gutters and weeds and everything they can’t get. On their own time, they go over and grab ladder, go clean out their gutter, just so this 87-year-old or 97-year-old female doesn’t have to even think about doing it. It’s not always life saving. Sometimes it’s just making a difference in somebody’s life. Just trying to be a positive influence, like going to Touch-a-Truck. At Z-Fest, letting kids climb on the truck and ask questions and put on your gear. You’re building experience. You’re building the things that matter and why you do the job.”

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