Todd Roland was enjoying a rare day off in the middle of last summer when his godson, Joshua Broad, frantically called at midafternoon. “Come quick, it’s Dad, and he is hurt bad,” Joshua said.
Roland told Joshua to calm down. As a volunteer fire chief and emergency room cardiothoracic physician’s assistant, Roland had plied his medical skills many times before in treating Keith Broad’s mild cardio condition that sometimes caused irregular heartbeats.
But Joshua was frantic: “No, come quick.”
It was impossible for the 21-year-old son to explain that a saw to cut concrete that his father was operating had kicked back and nearly severed Broad’s right arm and ripped open his chest cavity.
Roland, with one hand holding his cellphone, ran out of his Park Place home in Cheektowaga and into the South Line Volunteer Fire Department’s sport utility vehicle. His pager went off: “Severe industrial accident. Chest injury.”
Roland suddenly felt the urgency and realized that his best friend’s life hung in the balance.
“I told Josh, ‘I’ll be there in a minute. Just hang on,’ ” he recalled.
Roland raced to the scene on Oakwood Drive, about a mile away, imagining the worst. Keith and Joshua Broad, both members of South Line, worked together in a concrete business and had been installing wooden forms for a set of new residential front steps.
When Roland arrived, the 46-year-old Broad was bleeding profusely, barely conscious.
Two other volunteer firefighters already were at work, trying to halt the bleeding, but a skilled set of hands was needed to provide the complex first aid if Broad was to make it alive to Erie County Medical Center. That would be a high-speed, 15-minute drive away.
“We got him into the ambulance, and I started multiple IV lines to replace some of the fluid loss, then I reached into the wounds and attempted to subside the bleeding. I put my fist against one of the arteries. That slowed the bleeding,” Roland recalled.
At the same time, with his free hand, the 40-year-old fire chief worked two cellphones to make sure his colleagues at ECMC’s emergency room and surgical unit were ready for action.
“I knew the operating team that I worked with was just finishing their shift at about 3:45 p.m. I spoke with Dr. Anthony Picone, the thoracic surgeon, and told him it was a deep chest injury. Then I spoke to Zack Swanson, another physician’s assistant, and told him to have the on-pump bypass machine primed,” Roland said.
With the other cellphone on speaker, he dialed up Dr. Michael A. Manka Jr., ECMC’s director of emergency medicine.
“I told him we needed a ton of blood and that it was bad. We needed the blood and to get into surgery right away,” Roland said. “Mike said, ‘I’ll be ready.’ ”
Just before a quick stop in the ER to install a breathing tube and then a mad rush into the operating room, the critically injured patient managed to speak. “Todd,” Broad said, “I can’t feel my arms or legs. I’m very cold, and I’m going to sleep.”
Roland explained to him that his blood pressure was extremely low, that they were giving him anesthesia and that all would be well.
“There were four of us operating on Keith,” Roland said. “Dr. Picone and myself and Zack repaired the muscles in the chest and the chest wall. Dr. Raphael Blochle worked on the vascular injuries to the right arm and reattached it with Dr. Picone.”
Three hours and 23 units of blood later, the surgical team at last let out a collective sigh of relief. Keith Broad was going to make it. And his right arm was saved, too.
Twenty-four hours later, Broad opened his eyes to see he was surrounded by his family and Roland, the man others are quick to say orchestrated the rapid response that saved his life.
Broad was given a pad and pen, and he wrote down the words “concrete and Tim Hortons.” Joshua Broad knew exactly what his dad was communicating.
“He wanted to know if I finished the job and would we bring a coffee,” his son said.
Broad gradually recalled the accident. In his many years of work, he had handled the concrete saw countless times, but a freak accident on the afternoon of Aug. 1 caused the saw to jolt backward after the blade was pinched.
He is now receiving physical therapy and regaining movement of his right arm.
“Keith has about 80 percent movement of his right arm,” Roland said.
There is no end to Broad’s gratitude, and Wednesday night Roland received the collective thanks of the community at an awards ceremony where he was given the “2013 Liberty Mutual Firemark Award for Heroism.”
Joshua Broad explained why he nominated his godfather for the award.
“Because he saved my father,” he said.
Roland says that it would not be right if others were not acknowledged for their roles in the lifesaving effort.
“The two firefighters already at the scene were John Herod and Frank Zieziula, and they provided the initial care,” Roland said, adding that two paramedics from the fire company, Andy Atkinson and Jason Tolsma, rode in the ambulance to assist him.
“It was a perfect storm. It couldn’t have been timed any better. Think about it: If I wasn’t home and the surgeons weren’t still at the hospital along with the ER director, … Oh, my God, it was the perfect storm,” Roland said of what he believes was nothing short of a miraculous team effort.
Keith Broad also believes that it was a miracle.
“Everybody I see – the doctors, my rehab team – they all say it is a miracle,” Broad said. “I owe a dying gratitude to all of the members of my fire company, Rural Metro, ECMC doctors and nurses, and especially to my chief and my best friend, Todd Roland.”