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Rescue takes 8 hours
Man weighed 1,024 pounds

Thursday, February 21, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Emergency personnel and others recently overcame challenges to help a man who weighed more than 1,000 pounds get medical attention, according to Henry County Public Safety.

“This was a most unusual operation, and an amazing show of teamwork,” said Matt Tatum, assistant director of Henry County Public Safety. “I think it really shows the passion, the care and the quality of the responders we have in this area.”

The incident, he said, began around 8 p.m. Jan. 12 when a 911 caller asked for help for a man believed to have a heart problem. The caller indicated that the man was extremely large, according to Tatum.

In a newsletter to the Henry County Board of Supervisors, Tatum wrote that a Henry County Sheriff’s deputy and first responders from Dyers Store first responders were sent to the scene, where they found the man “in immediate need of medical attention.”

Because of the man’s size — later verified at 1,024 pounds — rescuers were unable to take him through the doors of the house. The man also was unable to walk, according to the newsletter.

Due to his condition, rescuers determined the medical helicopter landing zone was too far away, so they created a landing zone in the yard of the home. It later was determined that it was not needed.

Rescuers and others on the scene crafted two devices — Tatum called them “sleds for lack of a better word — one for inside the house that actually allowed the boards on the bottom to extend out to give us handles” and another to be used outside the home, he said.

The patient was able to maneuver himself onto the sled inside the home, Tatum said.

The sled was lifted through an opening where a double window was removed and down to the ground with a ladder that had added supports built at the scene, Tatum said.

Tatum said the patient was not in danger of falling off of the sled, and there was no risk of the sled getting away from rescuers because “it wouldn’t slide on it’s own.”

The patient then was transferred to the second sled, which was built to fit on the floor of the ambulance, he said.

Carillon Transport Services sent a special ambulance that was equipped with a stretcher capable of handing the man’s weight, Tatum said, adding that the maximum weight stretchers in Henry County are able to support is about 700 pounds.

At 4 a.m. on Jan. 13, the man “finally was placed in the ambulance,” Tatum said.

When he arrived at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, the patient’s weight was confirmed to be 1,024 pounds, he said.

Fieldale-Collinsville Rescue Squad, Dyers Store first responders, Public Safety EMS and administration, a county building official, Ridgeway Rescue Squad and Carillon Transport Services all responded to the scene, Tatum said.

“These are the type of events you cannot plan for. You have to make decisions right then and there, and there were a lot of different organizations working together to come up with a resolution and a plan to remove this gentleman from the situation he was in and get him to a medical facility,” he said.

“We even had a couple of folks on the scene who were actually contractors and were able to build” wooden structures needed for support, Tatum said. The county’s building inspector was there to help make sure the home was not damaged, and as those crews worked on their parts of the project, “EMS staff worked with the patient.”

Tatum said the rescuers also contended with cold temperatures, and “it was at night time. There were a lot of things working against us, but our responders endured everything to try to do what was best for this gentlemen,” he said. “Teamwork was exemplified in this event. We had a lot of good teamwork.”

The man remains hospitalized, Tatum said. He declined to provide details due to privacy concerns.


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