Clarenville — Flanked by her friends, Kim McNeill visits the Clarenville Fire Department last Thursday to meet the men who saved her life.
She has no recollection of their first meeting. She is full of questions.
She doesn’t struggle up the stairs to the meeting room, but she takes them a step at a time, never complaining of the pain, but noting some discomfort.
After she enters the meeting room, she expresses her thanks for the volunteers’ life-saving efforts.
“If it weren’t for you guys that day, I would likely not be here addressing you,” McNeill said.
“I would not likely even be standing here in front of you.”
Their lives first intersected on Jan. 13. Six members of the fire department responded to a call around 8:30 a.m. about a two-vehicle collision on the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) just outside of Clarenville.
One vehicle was found in the eastbound ditch facing the road; the second vehicle was facing west on the TCH.
Both drivers, who were from the Clarenville area, were still in their vehicles.
Highway conditions were slushy and partly snow covered. It was snowing and visibility was reduced.
A 39-year-old woman died shortly after being transported to the Dr. G.B. Cross Memorial Hospital.
McNeill was pulled from her vehicle, taken to the Clarenville hospital and later brought to St. John’s with serious injuries.
A vertebra in her neck had broken and splintered, coming dangerously close to her spinal cord. Three ribs were broken, one of which punctured her lung; a vertebrae in her back snapped and her foot was broken in three places.
She had 19 cuts to her head, many of which needed stitches. She also suffered soft tissue damage to her body.
“If it weren’t for you guys that day, I would likely not be here addressing you.” - Kim McNeill
McNeill was kept heavily sedated at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s for nearly two weeks.
Her doctor told her the first responders did everything right.
“(My doctor) told me that if it wasn’t for the quick actions of the whole team of first responders and the medical team at the Clarenville hospital, I would not have walked,” she said.
“Apparently, I was determined to get out of my car.”
The firefighters wouldn’t let her move.
“You kept me in the car against my wishes. That not only saved my life, that saved my quality of life,” she said.
“All of you knew better than to let me get out of the car.”
Sixteen weeks to the day of the accident, all eyes were on McNeill as she addressed the volunteers.
“If it had not been for you guys that day … I likely wouldn’t have been able to walk up those stairs,” she said.
“As a volunteer fire department, your efforts and your time spent on training, on-call and going out to these scenes is appreciated by people like me.”
She gave the department a plaque to show her appreciation.
Fire Chief Cory Feltham said the department doesn’t do what it does for thanks, but he said this was the first time someone had come to personally thank them.
“I know that what we do and spend our time on — nights, weekends, whenever — pays off,” he said.
“That’s a reward for us … knowing that we helped somebody.”