“My doctors said ‘Whoever had rescued her had done a wonderful job, saved her life, and allowed her to recover her movement’,” said Jean Shikuma, a California resident involved in a tragic car accident in 2011 that resulted in the death of her husband, David.
Shikuma visited the Pioche Fire Station earlier this month to give her thanks to those that had responded to her accident. “I returned to the crash-site in an effort to bring closure to the whole incident,” Shikuma said.
As some of the fire department crews were working on cement floors at the Pioche Fire Station June 8, Shikuma and her son walked in. In an emotional gathering, Shikuma was able to give her thanks and show her appreciation to those volunteers who helped save her life.
Shikuma said she and her husband had left Las Vegas earlier in the day June 27, 2011, and had just stopped for lunch in Pioche to switch drivers before returning to the U.S. Highway 93. They were going to Seattle, Wash., for a family reunion happening that July Fourth. Shikuma had fallen asleep after their meal, and was, “jolted awake… airborne… and had a harrowing feeling ‘this is going to end terribly for both of us.’”
Being suspended in the vehicle, Shikuma wasn’t certain of how much time had lapsed before the responders arrived, but said she could see the highway and saw two cars speed by, leaving her “in despair thinking that there would be no more cars that day.”
Before local responders arrived, a physician and his orthopedic nurse wife who also happened to be traveling on Highway 93 that day had stopped. The couple had decided they would not try and move her, and the wife, Shikuma said, “asked me questions to keep me awake and held my hand for 45 minutes until the ambulance arrived.” Shikuma had asked for their names, but they had not left their names with anyone. Shikuma thought maybe they wanted to remain anonymous, but said, “May God bless this couple.”
Shortly after, local rancher Lee Pearson and one of his sons had stopped. Shikuma believes it was he who called the Sheriff’s Department to report the accident.
The call found the Pioche Volunteer Fire personnel responding to a wildfire in the McDermitt area, along with the BLM and Nevada Division of Forestry crews. Mike Scott, John Stever and Mat Bailey volunteered to leave the firefighting and respond to the page.
Discovering a car that had rolled a number of times and still had two occupants seat belted inside, upside down, the firemen improvised with the tools available on the wild land pumper, gaining access to the vehicle. They extracted Shikuma, careful to keep her neck and spine aligned. From there, she was transported to Grover C. Dils hospital in Caliente, and then life-flighted to Las Vegas where she spent 10 days in intensive care and two and-a-half months in a rehab facility.
By the time the responders had Shikuma safely removed, the ambulance and more fire personnel with extraction equipment and medical supplies had arrived.
The cause of the accident that claimed her husband’s life is still a mystery. He was assumed to die instantly at the scene.
“For two years, I wondered what caused the accident because Dave was an excellent driver,” she said.
She feels that he couldn’t have fallen asleep, as he had just taken the wheel, nor does she feel he was “mesmerized by the road.” However, at their reunion with the Pioche volunteers, it was confirmed that there was bloodied tissue scattered in the car. Shikuma knew her husband must have been distracted with a bloody nose he was having trouble with prior to the accident.
Teri Hansen, local Pioche EMT responder, mentioned to Shikuma that even after several years, car debris still remained. Together, Shikuma and her son visited the area and confirmed there was much car debris. “The most telling item was a knitting mystery novel I had on the trip,” she said.
Shikuma said it was, “satisfying to know how and where the accident happened. There is no more wondering and speculating. I can now move on and no longer feel that I left David in Nevada. He is with me.”
Shikuma was glad to have been able to thank Larry Stever, the Chief of the Pioche Fire Department and Rick Stever, Chief of County Fire District, as well as Teri Hansen and John Reich, the EMT drivers from Pioche. Her gratitude extends to the first group of volunteers, Mat Bailey, Mike Scott and John Stever and also Lee Pearson for stopping. John Stever and Pearson were not able to get to the fire station that morning.
Shikuma says, “I never have to look far to see others in conditions much worse than I thanks to the Pioche rescue team,” and says the accident has had a “tremendous spiritual impact on my life.”
“I would like your community to know what great, well-trained, compassionate and special people the Fire, Sheriff, and Ambulance teams are, and private citizens like Lee Pearson did not hesitate to do what he could do for someone in need.” Shikuma also hopes the first couple that stopped will read this and contact her so she may share her gratitude.
Shikuma said every medical personnel she dealt with told her that she should have been paralyzed, but it was the initial action of the rescue teams that prevented it, “and was key in my well-being today.” Shikuma has some flexibility limitations because of metal rods in her left arm, neck and back, but otherwise is in, “really good health.”