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What are the Odds?

By on July 1, 2016

A Citizen Driver Miracle

“We were friends for quite a while, quite a few years, and I happened to open up my mouth, and say something about an accident, and he realized who I was. I didn’t know who he was until he started telling me things. And that’s when I realized he was the person who saved my life. I want to thank Jon in front of everybody, because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive standing on this stage.”

It was Candy Bass who spoke these emotion-drenched words about Jon Osburn on Friday, April 1, immediately following the luncheon at MATS honoring the 2016 Citizen Drivers. To understand the origin, you have to turn the clock back almost 29 years to April 30, 1987. She was eastbound driving a cabover Freightliner on I-40 about 85 miles west of Albuquerque, near Grants, New Mexico. He was a grad student at the University of New Mexico and an on-call Flight Para-Medic at the University Hospital. Fate may have played a role in their chance meeting that day, or perhaps it was Divine intervention.

When you see Candy or Jon, ask them for the long version of this story. In a nutshell, here’s what happened that forever connects them via three odds-defying links. First, Jon did miraculously save Candy’s life that day. Second, and quite by chance, they reconnected about five years ago at a charity event both were attending, even though they had casually known each other for several years after Jon had entered the trucking industry. And third, Candy and Jon had no idea they were both being honored as 2016 Citizen Drivers until attending a meet-and-greet on the evening of March 31.

Horrific Accident

Always a bad combination, high winds caused a motorhome being towed by a pickup to hit Candy’s left steer tire. She lost control. The resulting flip turned the truck upside down, the windshield popped out, and Candy wound up halfway out of the cab sliding down I-40, her broken right leg—either luckily or instinctively—wrapped around the gear shift. The resulting injuries were horrific. Fractured pelvis. Broken collarbone. Partially de-scalped. Lost right ear, de-gloved right hand. Lots of bleeding. A man of slight-build crawled through a hole cut in the sleeper to help extricate Candy. A nurse who stopped comforted her, kept Candy awake. Upon arrival, two state patrol officers declared Candy dead. When the ambulance crew arrived, that call was reversed. Then reversed, and reversed again. At one point, her lungs collapsed. Resuscitation only worked after the third paddle jolt. With Candy barely clinging to life, confusion among the volunteer responders continued.

Amazing Rescue

While things were frantically playing out on I-40, Jon and the pilot of a twin-engine Cessna 414 were listening to the equally confusing chaos coming across the airwaves. Not deterred, Jon and the pilot decided to fly. The pilot dove in, landed on I-40 and taxied up to the scene. Jon’s years of EMS experience kicked in. He stabilized Candy and made sure her airways were cleared. Onboard the 414, Jon placed Candy in military anti-shock trousers, inserted two IV’s and attached monitoring equipment. Radio communications relayed her condition and injuries to the ambulance crew and the hospital ER team, who were at the ready along with specialty doctors and staff members.

With a guardian angel working way above any reasonable pay grade, Candy did survive the horrific crash. The first weeks were tense. Unknown to Candy, Jon visited a couple of times, knew she would make it, and moved on. Her recovery was long. The follow-up medical procedures were painful. The therapy was intense. Remembering little, Candy wanted to resume her driving career. Despite being advised otherwise, Candy got back in a truck after 18 long months. The rest of the story, as they say, is history.

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