Two-and-a-half years after a surviving a horrific car crash, a Bibb County man is building work experience by volunteering at the fire department his family credits with saving his life.
Dustin Rowe was ejected from the sunroof of his vehicle and thrown into a ravine when his car was side-swiped along a particularly bad portion of Bibb County Road 13 on Jan. 10, 2015.
“That day will always stand out in my mind because it was also my birthday,” said Joseph Hall, the Green Pond Fire & Rescue paramedic who responded to Rowe’s crash. “When we found Dustin, he was unconscious with snoring respirations (because his tongue was blocking his airway). Making matters worse, he was also in a spot that wasn’t easily accessible. It took six people to get to him so he could be airlifted him to UAB’s TBI trauma center.”
In addition to sustaining a traumatic brain injury, Rowe broke both clavicles, his neck, and several ribs and ruptured his adrenal gland in the crash.
Doctors at UAB told Rowe’s family that the actions taken at the scene of the crash more than likely saved his life. Rowe’s father penned a heartfelt letter of appreciation to the fire department which is framed and displayed at the station.
ADRS began working with Rowe following his three-month stint at the Spain Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham. TBI Care Coordinator Tammy Lovell worked on cognitive remediation with Rowe, provided resources to his family, and referred him to ADRS Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist Craig Rogers for a driver evaluation – which he passed.
Lovell worked extensively with Rowe for more than a year to rebuild his confidence and stamina and prepare him to re-enter the workforce. As Rowe and Lovell were driving through Bibb County discussing potential places to get his volunteer work readiness training, the pair drove by the Green Pond fire station, and Dustin mentioned his desire to work there as a way to thank them for what they did for him.
They approached Fire Chief Shannon Taylor, who recognized Rowe’s name from the letter hanging on the station’s wall. He agreed to let Rowe work as a volunteer, performing tasks ranging from checking and maintaining the trucks to washing and cleaning around the firehouse.
“I think it was God’s plan for Dustin to find work there,” said Lovell. “He’s got a good heart, and there is something really sweet and special about seeing him work side-by-side with the same people who rescued him two years ago.”
Rowe said the best part of his work experience is arriving on scene in the fire truck when responding to an emergency.
“It’s really fun and exciting when we’re going out on calls,” said Rowe. “I haven’t taken part in anything major, but I have been out in the truck six or seven times now. It’s huge, because I feel like I’m giving back and helping out for all they have done for me. I wouldn’t be here if not for them.”
Rowe has volunteered five-hour days at the fire department, two or three times a week, since March. He meets with Lovell this week to discuss his next steps to again finding permanent employment.
“I love Miss Tammy to death,” Rowe said. “She’s helped me out in so many ways. With her help – with VR’s help – I know I’m on the right path.”