The drive home was really an afterthought.
As a part-time employee, Dylan David had done it several times after a 24-hour shift but this time was different.
He had just finished his first shift as a full-time paramedic for Texas EMS in Granbury, the culmination of a goal that had been years in the making.
“For me it was all exciting,” Dylan said. “I kind of knew what to expect but it was all still new. It wasn’t at a fire department but it was a step in that direction.”
But shortly after that shift ended, his life would be upended.
Instead of helping others, Dylan found his life in the hands of someone else.
On the drive back to his Haltom City apartment, Dylan fell asleep at the wheel along U.S. 377 in Benbrook.
“I think I was asleep for that split second,” David said. “The road went right and I just went left going straight. I think I was out 10-15 seconds at the max.”
When he woke up, he was pinned inside his 2014 Ford Mustang.
The car had been pulverized by the crash with a southbound Isuzu box truck. Luckily, the occupants of the other vehicle weren’t seriously injured.
Dylan’s situation, however, was not good.
‘Immediately felt sick’
Two nurses who witnessed the crash — one on the way to work and another who was on vacation — stopped to help until firefighters and paramedics arrived.
As a trained paramedic, Dylan was trying to learn how badly he was hurt after paramedics arrived.
“I was asking them: ‘What’s my blood pressure? What medications are you giving me?’” Dylan said. “For me, knowing those things, I didn’t think I was really that bad.”
That initial sense of optimism would fade as the ambulance carried him to the hospital and he heard a paramedic radio ahead to the hospital about preparing for a “partial-amputation.”
Within minutes of arriving at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, he was told he going to be prepped for surgery.
When Dylan’s father, Bryan David, first saw his son, Dylan had already been sedated and intubated. One look told him it wasn’t good.
“As soon as I saw his left leg, I just immediately felt sick,” Bryan David said.
Any concerns about the leg would take a backseat to saving Dylan’s life as his blood pressure suddenly dropped and doctors found internal bleeding.
“It became life over limb,” Bryan David said.
Dylan’s parents had to sign off on the amputation of part of his leg.
“We were faced with the worst decision you could make as a parent,” Bryan David said. “We could have tried to save a leg that was pretty much unsavable. His knee was gone. It had been obliterated. Part of femur was gone. He had lost blood flow. His quality of life would have been low if we had tried to save it.”
Doctors would amputate his left leg about four inches above the knee.
When he came out of sedation the next day, it was the first thing he asked about, even with all of the tubes still down his throat.
“In his mind, he pretty much knew already,” Bryan David said. “But it took a minute to sink in but he accepted it and said ‘I’m going to go on.’”
All told, he would have three surgeries, including having his spleen and part of his intestines removed.
More than a month later, he is still waiting for his new life to begin.
‘The earlier, the better’
For now, he lives at his father’s North Richland Hills home, watching TV and playing video games on his Xbox and waiting to get fitted with a prosthetic leg. There are things he can no longer do, like carrying his dishes to the kitchen sink. Taking a shower now requires a stool and requires much more time.
There have also been regular visits to doctors, outings with his dad to car shows and regular visits by his friends.
The prosthetic leg won’t arrive until the end of August.
Dylan said he’s restless, anxious to start physical therapy and learn how to get around with his prosthetic leg.
“My goal is by September to be up and moving around on my own — or at least by October or November,” David said. “The earlier, the better.”
This is the first time Dylan hasn’t been working since he was 15. Eventually, Dylan hopes to return to Texas EMS and to volunteer again as a firefighter at the Willow Park Fire Department. He may not be able to run inside a burning building but Dylan thinks he can drive the truck or operate a hose. Neither agency has ruled out a return, Dylan said.
“I hope that he can come back on a part-time basis as soon as he is able,” said William Verne Walker, executive director at Texas EMS. “He may not be able to go out on a call right away but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things he can do to help us.”
Walker won’t rule out Dylan working as a paramedic again.
“I think Dylan is more in control than anybody,” Walker said. “I think he’s the type that once he decides what he’s going to do he makes it happen. Look at what’s happened with veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. You’ve had so many amputees and so many advances in technology. I think there is a real possibility he’ll get back to what he was doing before.”
But there are considerable medical bills going forward.
An expensive future
Besides the expense of three surgeries and eight days in the hospital, Dylan faces the cost of a prosthetic leg. One that would allow him to be active and resume his life could cost $75,000 or higher. He does have health insurance but is uncertain how much of the costs for the prosthesis will be covered.
“The prosthesis is going to be the biggest part of the bill,” Dylan said. “Insurance will probably cover some but not all of it from what we’ve been told. They’ll typically pay for some but they probably aren’t going to pay the price for the best equipment.”
That has forced Dylan into the uncomfortable role of asking for help. There have been fundraisers in Granbury and by his former co-workers at a local Joe’s Crab Shack. His mother has also set up website for those that want to donate.
“I didn’t like the idea of asking for all of the help, but after learning how much it’s going to cost, I’m becoming OK with it,” Dylan said.
Dylan also hopes to one day replace his beloved 2014 Ford Mustang that he had bought on his own.
As someone who grew up around his Dad’s sports cars, going to race tracks and auto shows, Dylan can’t wait to get behind the wheel.
In one weak moment, he said, he might as well get a Prius since he wouldn’t able to drive a stick shift with his injury. But since then, he’s started yearning for another sports car.
“I hope to get another Mustang some day,” Dylan said. “I realize I’m not going to have a lot of money for a long time but that’s still a goal of mine.”
Like all of his other benchmarks, his family believes it will eventually happen.
“We have every confidence that Dylan will be doing what he wants to be doing a year from now,” said stepmother Ginifer O’Neal. “We have no doubt.”