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Local emergency personnel go beyond call of duty

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- When Janice McKenna found herself trapped inside her car dazed and confused after being involved in a horrendous car accident, she said the EMTs and paramedics that assisted her went above the call of duty by not only treating her, but her furry family members as well.

On the morning of April 22, McKenna said she had packed her car in preparation for a trip to visit her brother in North Carolina. Along for the ride were McKenna's two "babies," a silky Yorkshire Terrier named Micky and a rat terrier named Little Bit.

As the trio made their way down Jefferson Street nearing the traffic light and Jefferson Street Bridge, McKenna suddenly found herself slamming headfirst into a large semi-truck that was turning in the intersection.

"It was like hitting a white wall," she said of the experience.

McKenna's body lurched forward in her seat by the sudden impact, her two dogs, who were dozing in a pet bed next to her, flew violently toward the front of the car.

"They were lying in the floor and bleeding badly," said the owner of Facials Just For You on Dawson Road.

When emergency personnel arrived a few minutes later, McKenna said she was still in shock and "was in a fog."

"I didn't know which way to turn," she recalled. "Micky was staring up at me and looked at me like, 'Help me Mama.'"

While emergency personnel were accessing possible injuries McKenna may have sustained during the crash, McKenna said she was more worried about her two babies.

"I know I probably wasn't making much sense," she said. "I was more concerned about my dogs. I was OK, but my babies weren't."

Dougherty County Emergency Medical Service Assistant Director Greg Rowe had heard about the accident over the radio and had arrived on the scene to assist around 8 a.m.

Rowe said the two dogs were in bad shape and that the supervisor on duty that day, Steve Ebel, had already taken one of the dogs and placed him in a nearby truck.

Several emergency vehicles were on the scene and Rowe said he was talking to McKenna while emergency personnel worked on her.

"Steve said that he had already asked her (McKenna) who her vet was and was planning on taking the dogs there. I told him that was great," Rowe said. "Although were are there for the public, as long as the human patients are taken care of we don't mind assisting the patient with other needs."

While Ebel tried to calm down one of McKenna's dogs in the truck, Rowe went back to the vehicle to retrieve the other injured animal.

"We were just trying to keep them safe," Rowe said. "A lot of times when dogs are in wrecks they escape from the vehicle and run the risk of getting ran over. They (the dogs) were scared and hurt and separated from their owner."

The EMS assistant director then called McKenna's business and informed them that she was involved in a car accident while Micky and Little Bit were taken by Ebel to the veterinarian for treatment.

Micky suffered from a broken jaw and was bleeding heavily and Little Bit had sustained extensive internal wounds. McKenna was taken to Palmyra Medical Center for treatment.

The spa owner said she felt relieved to know that her dogs were taken care of and was grateful to the emergency personnel who took Micky and Little Bit to the vet.

McKenna managed to come away from the accident with minor injuries, unfortunately her two babies were not as lucky.

"I lost both of them," she said quietly. "The vet said Micky had about a 10 percent chance of surviving surgery to correct his jaw. So the decision was made to put him to sleep. They couldn't save them."

McKenna said while she is saddened by the loss of her furry companions, she is grateful for the compassion shown by the emergency workers.

"I really appreciate what they did," she said. "They went above and beyond the call of duty."

Rowe said it is not uncommon for paramedics and EMTs to help save animals from danger as well as humans.

"It means a lot to people," he said. "Some people are very close to their pets -- they are like family. We work with human doctors and veterinarians. We often try to call family members or check up on someone in the hospital we brought in earlier. It is part of what we do."

McKenna said it will be some time before she looks for another companion, but she is thankful that the two dogs went together.

"They were good friends and had a good relationship, if they had to go, I'm glad they did it together," she said.

McKenna said she believes the seat belt she was wearing when she hit the semi-truck saved her life, as well as the vehicle's airbags. In the future, she said she plans to never travel with an animal in the car without them being in a crate and buckled in.

"I am just so thankful to the paramedics," McKenna said. "Their compassion for me and my dogs was wonderful and I believe he (Rowe) would've done the same for anyone. They (the emergency personnel) deserve all the praise."