Part-time paramedics and EMTs use their training to prevent car-accident injuries from getting worse.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
VIENNA -- Ron Rossi took the Christmas lights down from his Boardman home Saturday.
He's thankful he was able to do it.
Just hours before he completed the task, he tried to show the Vienna Township Fire Department just how thankful he is.
Rossi, severely injured in a rollover SUV accident in May, said he would be dead or paralyzed if not for the help and expertise of a paramedic, emergency medical technicians and volunteer firefighters from the Vienna rescue team.
On Saturday, he and his wife, Sandra, and their two sons, ages 18 and 23, visited the township department, bringing a pizza-and-pop lunch for the workers there.
"How do you thank somebody who saves your life?" Rossi said. "That's a pretty tough thing to do. Words can never express that kind of gratitude."
What happened: Rossi, 47, was a passenger in a Ford Explorer on a state Route 11 off-ramp near state Route 82 when the driver lost control and the vehicle flipped. Rossi was not wearing a seat belt and was propelled through the windshield and into a roadside ditch. The driver, who wore a seat belt, was uninjured.
Rossi suffered four fractures in his neck as well as breaks in his lower back and left leg and bruises to his brain and kidneys.
Richard Bannon, Vienna Township fire chief, said his rescue team has responded to several accidents in which people are ejected from vehicles, but he "can't recall anyone as busted up as this guy was."
That night, part-time paramedic Brian Barnhart and part-time EMTs Matt Byknish and Mike Hagood, assistant fire chief, used their training to place Rossi on a board without moving him from the position he was in when they found him. Their work helped prevent further injury and protected Rossi's spine, Bannon said.
Several volunteer firefighters also assisted that night, including Capt. Tom Powell, who helped carry Rossi up an embankment.
"They do this kind of stuff because they want to do it," Bannon said. "They train vigorously. ... I'm fortunate to have them on the department."
Still recovering: Rossi spent several months in a steel "halo" screwed into his head and a body vest to keep the neck and back stationary as his injuries healed. Today, his body is recovering. He works out a few days each week and is back to his job in heavy truck and equipment sales.
Rossi said that he was glad to "finally meet these heroes," whom he prays for each day, and that he wished he knew the right words to express how he feels.
They told him: "Seeing you walking is all the thanks we need."