When Carl Knight started out on a motorcycle ride with his friends early one morning this spring, being in an accident was doubtless the last thing on his mind. Likely even more remote were thoughts about who might be there to care for him should such an accident happen.
Knight was participating in a motorcycle ride in support of VA’s annual VA2K “Walk & Roll,” an initiative to gather donations for homeless Veterans and heighten awareness of the benefits of physical fitness.
At an intersection in Soperton, Georgia, a driver disregarded the stop sign, striking Knight and sending him and his bike in opposite directions. That was his last memory before waking up at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.
“I don’t remember the accident. The next thing I knew it was a week later and I was in the hospital,” Knight said.
VA doctors offer assistance
What he learned on awakening was as coincidental as it was fortunate. Just as EMS arrived to care for Knight, two doctors also arrived on the scene.
Dr. George Ferrara and Dr. Kinga Kovacs Ferrara, physicians at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, were running late for their daughter’s sorority event in Atlanta when they passed through Soperton that morning. Seeing the accident, the doctors immediately offered their assistance and began to care for the injured motorcyclist.
Knight had been thrown some distance from his bike, and on assessing his condition, the physicians realized that his left leg, severely damaged below the knee and bleeding profusely, might have to be removed, a life-threatening condition by itself. They were also concerned about possible internal injuries, especially after noticing the long scar on his chest indicative of previous cardiac surgery. Dr. George Ferrara recommended to EMTs that they get Knight to Meadows Regional immediately.
“Given the possibility of his use of blood thinners for a heart condition and the copious blood loss from his leg wound, we knew we had to get him out of there,” Ferrara said.
At Meadows Regional, Knight’s heart stopped for the first time. Meadows staff revived him, but his heart would stop again after he was transported to Navicent Trauma Center in Macon. Again, he was brought back from the brink. Ferrara praised the excellent treatment that medical personnel demonstrated and saved Knight’s life.
“EMTs, Life Flight, Meadows Regional, and Navicent staff were remarkable. Seeing these amazing professionals come together to save Carl’s life made me proud to be in the health care field,” Ferrara said.
At Navicent, Knight underwent emergency surgery. In addition to the profound leg injury, it turned out that he had several broken ribs that complicated his recovery by making breathing difficult and necessitating the use of a ventilator for over a week.
Ferrara said that despite the heroic efforts of medical staff, Knight’s recovery was difficult, prolonged and miraculous. He credited the skills of medical professionals and Knight’s own strength and tenacity for saving his life.
“Surviving such extreme trauma would have been a monumental challenge for anyone, but Carl’s inner strength and resolve pulled him through,” Ferrara said.
Knight and Wife also Carl Vinson VA Employee
At the scene of the accident, Ferrara said his wife Kinga had speculated that Knight might be a military veteran. She was right, but the truth was more interesting than she knew. Not only was Knight a U.S. Navy Veteran who served for 16 years, including during the Vietnam War, he was one of their Dublin VA co-workers, as was his wife Judy, a registered nurse.
Knight was thankful to all of the medical professionals who worked to save his life, yet admitted that there was something special about knowing that two of his co-workers were involved.
“Because I worked at the VA for so many years, I know the excellent work that our VA folks do, so it was reassuring to know that they were there for me after an accident so far away from our medical center,” Knight said.
Ferrara was equally gratified that he and his wife were involved in Knight’s care.
“My wife and I are fond of saying that we are committed to taking care of all, but especially our own,” he said.
Ferrara has visited Knight in his room at the VA many times over the months and they remain friends. Most of their conversations, however, have nothing to do with Knight’s accident. They mostly discuss their days in military service, and as it happens, George Ferrara is also a Veteran Navy officer with 12 years of service.
“When you get Veterans together, they can’t help but reminisce about military days,” Knight said.
Ultimately, Knight lost his leg due to complications from his accident and has spent months rehabilitating at the Dublin VA where he served other Veterans for so long. He has received a prosthetic leg and is making great progress.
His recovery has been the most significant challenge of his life, but Knight remains optimistic.
“Each day I wake up and get another day of life because of the devotion of a bunch of wonderful professionals who made saving my life a priority. If I didn’t stay positive, it would dishonor their efforts. I’ve been through a lot in my life and I plan to be around for a long time yet.”
Frank Jordan is a communications chief at the Dublin, Georgia VA Medical Center, and a retired VA police chief and a U.S. Navy Veteran.