During the 20-plus years Richard Cashell has been a Tyler police officer he’s made friends among the people who provide emergency medical transportation in East Texas. That’s a good thing. When Cashell found himself far from home in a small hospital with multiple severe injuries from a motorcycle accident, those friends flew him home to ETMC Tyler and recovery.
Cashell was attending a Blue Knights motorcycle convention in Hot Springs, Ark., in May 2010. On a Friday he was leading a group of riders on a national scenic byway ride into Oklahoma when a car turned in front of him and he hit it square on the passenger door. He was told he flew 35 feet in the air before landing on pavement. An ambulance took him to a small hospital in Hot Springs.
But his condition deteriorated in the facility, and by Monday Cashell’s friends in Tyler were rightly concerned. Joseph Stacey, ETMC Air 1 helicopter pilot, knew Cashell needed transport to the ETMC Level I Trauma Center in Tyler. Although bad weather in the Texarkana area made him hesitant, he and his crew flew to go get him.
"He was very pale, very ashen..."
Flight medic Steven Jones recalled that when they arrived at the hospital, “You could hear him breathing from the hallway; just a lot of respiratory distress. He was very pale, very ashen. He just couldn’t be taken care of at that facility – he would probably not have survived his injuries.” His friends flew him to ETMC Tyler, calling ahead while en route. The hospital was ready, said Kara Tapley, RN, a trauma clinical nurse: “As a Level I trauma center we always have to be prepared for patients such as Mr. Cashell, who had severe life-threatening injuries.” Cashell’s injuries included fractured vertebrae in his neck and lumbar spine, fractures in every rib on the left side of his back, a minor skull fracture, nerve damage in his left shoulder, a fractured nose, thumb and great toe, extensive ligament damage in his right knee, and a badly infected abdominal wound.
A team effort
Recovery was a team effort by ETMC healthcare professionals. He spent 14 days in the hospital, followed by surgery to fuse his cervical vertebrae and months of physical and occupational therapy. He returned to limited duties on the Tyler police force in September 2010 and resumed full duties in January 2011.
Cashell praised those who helped him at ETMC Tyler.
“Trust these people,” he said. “If I ever get a tattoo, I’m going to put it on my chest and it’s going to say, ‘Fly me to ETMC Tyler,’ so when they pull my shirt open they’ll know where I need to go. I want to go to ETMC because I trust the people there to take care of me.”
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