‘Today is our day of thanks for everyone’

Camden first responders apply just the right pressure to save boy’s life

Posted:  Monday, December 4, 2017 - 3:15pm

CAMDEN — Adin Grey was test-riding his brand new Mongoose mountain bike one afternoon in mid-September, cruising down Washington Street by the Knox Mill, when the chain came off and he lost control, his tires hitting cobblestones at just the wrong angle.

Instead of flying off the bike, the force of the crash drove the handlebars into his stomach.

Adin landed on the sidewalk, and his injuries were grave. Thick red blood began seeping onto the pavement from a hole in his belly the size of a 50-cent piece. 

Deb Chapman, a resident of the Knox Mill apartments, witnessed what happened, rushed to Adin’s side, and called across the street to the firefighters for help. They were outside in front of the trucks, with Cub Scouts.

Camden Police Detective Curt Andrick was just leaving the police station when he saw Adin tumble down. 

Both he and Firefighter Isaiah Backiel ran over, and recognized immediately the severity of the wound. While Andrick began to apply pressure to Adin’s stomach, Backiel ran across the street to the fire station and grabbed the first aid bag from Engine Four; in it were clean wound dressings and towels to stanch the bleeding.

Together, Backiel and Andrick kept their hands on Adin’s belly as the blood poured out. 

The handlebars, surgeons at Maine Medical Center later determined, had severed not only an artery, but a vein, as well. Luckily, however, rubber casings covered the handlebars, and although they had bruised his liver, they failed to rip into Adin’s internal organs.

North East Mobile Health Services wasted no time in getting to downtown Camden from ambulance headquarters, on Route 1 in Rockport. 

Both Melissa Bond, a paramedic, and Rick O’Malley, an EMT, understood how quickly life can drain when a person goes into shock. And Adin was slipping into shock.

“Those first few minutes were crucial,” said Adin’s mother, April Totman, herself a nurse. She was right by Adin’s side as they transported him from Rockport to Portland via LifeFlight helicopter, and she knew it was touch and go for her son.

“Our struggle was, would he survive the flight,” she said.

But on Nov. 30, Adin was back downtown, this time, delivering chocolate chip, as well as molasses, cookies he had made for the firefighters and police department. Earlier, he and Totman, and his father, Mike Grey, had delivered cookies to Deb Chapman, and to North East Mobile Health Services.

Adin and his family were expressing gratitude to all those who saved his life, and you can bet, eyes were brimming with happy tears.

“Today is our day of thanks for everyone,” said Totman. 

Adin remains in recovery. He spends half the day in eighth grade classes at Camden-Rockport Middle School, but is not back there yet at full strength.

He remembers certain aspects of that day.

“I rolled and bounced 20 feet,” he said. 

He remembers certain faces, and their encouraging words. 

As the first responders worked fast to save Adin, Fire Chief Chris Farley drove to Adin’s home to find his father. A history teacher at Camden Hills Regional High School, Grey was in the regular afternoon routine at home, while Totman was at work.

“Come down with me,” said Farley, without a lot of excitement, so that Adin’s little brother would not get alarmed.

Grey arrived to find his son white as sheet. 

As Bond and O’Malley lifted Adin into the ambulance, they asked Backiel to drive to Pen Bay Medical Center. They knew that they both needed to keep the pressure on Adin’s stomach, and respond to any changes.

“Can you go faster,” asked Bond, at one point, of Backiel. It was mid-September, and summer traffic still clogged Route 1.

After initial time at Pen Bay, a LifeFlight helicopter — “one of the new ones,” said Totman — transported Adin to Maine Medical Center, in Portland; in all, a 26-minute flight she will never forget.

At Maine Med, surgeons cut into Adin’s stomach and learned definitively that no organs had been damaged. They tied the vein and artery, and replenished Adin’s life blood.  

“One handlebar had punctured through his left abdomen, bruising his bowels, bladder, destroying musculature through his lower abdomen, severing a circumflex artery off the femoral artery that was not saved and puncturing his iliac vein that the  surgeon was able to save,” said Totman. “He had to be opened in two ways: an eight-inch midline incision and a six-inch incision to his left groin.”

The surgeons credited the first responders for saving his life.

“Everyone did such a good job with pressure dressing,” said Totman.

Both Andrick and Backiel have been trained in fundamental first aid — Andrick at the police academy and Backiel with the fire department — and they knew not to ease up.

And while Adin was hospitalized, the community responded in force.

“The community was amazing,” said Totman. “People from all over were rooting for Adin.”

Two months later, as Adin presented his trays of cookies to Backiel and Andrick, his father grinned.

“Four former students were so amazingly professional that day,” he said, smiling at Isaiah. From Backiel to nurses in the hospital and others, Grey had encountered those who at one time had sat behind desks in his classroom and were now in positions to help save his son’s life.

And Grey has one major public safety tip for other parents.  

“Make sure all handlebars are covered in rubber,” he said.

Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at lyndaclancy@penbaypilot.com; 207-706-6657