Rowan medical crews begin trip to put 19-year-old 'on the road to healing'

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 20, 2012

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — Vincent Anderson has a long road ahead of him.
The 19-year-old from Salisbury is coming back home this weekend. Friends and family will meet a Rowan Rescue Squad ambulance carrying local medical workers who volunteered to bring Anderson home.
Anderson can’t see. He can’t move. He has minimal responses after a head-on collision in Texas left him in a vegetative state.
But Anderson’s mother, who hasn’t left her son’s side in a San Antonio hospital since the Dec. 5 crash, said things are slowly starting to look up.
“I’m just ready to get him home because I miss my kids and I miss my husband. Whenever we talk to him, he makes grimaces or moves around — he hears us,” his mother, April Espinoza, said this week. “We’re ready to be home, so we can be on the road to healing.”
Anderson’s car was hit head-on by a Jeep while he was on his way to work early on Dec. 5.
The crash broke both his arms and legs, fractured his face, caused bleeding in his brain and a series of strokes that led to his coma. Doctors at Brooke Army Medical Center told his mother that he has a 50-50 chance of waking.
Espinoza said Anderson worked for a pipeline company and had only been in Texas about three months before the crash.
Emergency crews hope to help end the cross-country nightmare on Sunday when they return home.
The 44-hour voyage has been in the works for about two weeks, crews said.
Those going are planning every possible scenario on the road home, medics said, including planned stops and mapped emergency stations along the route.
The volunteers are made up of Rowan Rescue Squad and Rowan County EMS members who are donating their hours to make the trip. Other EMS members have also volunteered to work during planned leave time to make the trip possible for the two paramedics to go.
Coyt Karriker, director of the Rowan County Rescue Squad, said the department looked into all possible ways of bringing Anderson home.
But despite negotiating with several organizations, Karriker said, the cost to fly Anderson to North Carolina was too expensive.
Karriker said Carolinas Medical Center officials spoke to the Rescue Squad about allowing use of a helicopter for air transport, but the cost was nearly $15,000.
Although the department couldn’t afford it, he said, CMC asked for volunteers Wednesday night to provide a flight nurse or additional paramedic for the ground trip.
Medics departed for Texas at 7 p.m. Thursday from the Rowan Rescue Squad on Julian Road.
Anderson’s sister, Britny Ramirez, 21, was at a meeting Wednesday night at the Rowan Rescue Squad while volunteers went over plans for the trip.
Ramirez is Anderson’s only sibling who has been able to see him since the crash more than a month ago. He has three others, who all live in Salisbury.
Ramirez said her brother’s return to Rowan brings hope to her family.
“We just have more support over here for him,” Ramirez said. “He’ll know that people love him more than ever. There’s a lot of people that are supporting him.”
One of those people, whom he’s never met, is Tamara Earnhardt. She is one of the paramedics going on the trip, which she said she was meant to go on.
“I had a son who had leukemia,” Earnhardt said. “He passed away in 1997. He would have been 24 now.”
Earnhardt was working for the Salisbury Fire Department then, but friends and co-workers from Rowan Rescue drove to Duke University Hospital to bring her son home before he died.
Earnhardt said she still thinks about that trip as she works with the Rescue Squad.
She said those who rode in the back of the ambulance with her and her 9-year-old son will always have a “special bond.”
“That’s what we do,” she said. “We help people.”
And that’s why, Earnhardt said, “I’m 99.9 percent sure I’m supposed to go.”
April Espinoza said her son’s company has paid for living expenses for the last month while she stays at a nearby Quality Inn at night.
On Sunday, Anderson will be moved into Genesis Healthcare nursing home on Julian Road.
“I’ll be able to check in on him throughout the day,” said Espinoza, who also works as a CNA at Genesis. “And it’s only a few minutes from where I live.”
She said she was “so thankful and grateful” to crews traveling the nearly 2,400 miles to bring her son back.
“It’s amazing. I really didn’t know how this could possibly happen,” she said. “People do care.”
Anyone who wishes to donate to Vincent Anderson’s family or the trip can do so at any Wells Fargo bank location by giving “For the benefit of Vincent Ray Anderson.”
Donations can also be made out to Rowan County Rescue Squad, PO Box 61 Salisbury, N.C. 28145 in care of Vincent Anderson.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-787-2649 or