In January 2003, while working a minor accident on a local interstate, a tractor-trailer slammed into the scene. Tim’s legs were severed above his knees. Tim has completely recovered and now shares his story of faith and triumph around the world.
CF: You’ve come a long way since your accident 12 years ago. What changes have been made to keep first responders safe?
Hayes: “Fortunately, there have been things put in place in the past 12 years for the first responder — we’re talking EMS, Fire, police, hazmat, tow truck operators and utility workers. The TIMS system, which is a traffic incident management system, has been put in place. This system strategically places vehicles, like an ambulance for example, on an accident site so that the first responders are now blocked and the injured and their vehicles are out of harms way. The remaining issue is in the community where the drivers need to be educated, outside of fire and police.”
CF: It makes a lot of sense to use vehicles as protection.
Hayes: “It does. Actually Tennessee first started this system. It was called a hash tag movement. Last year North Carolina adopted the same hash tag movement. Now they have people trained. I spoke last March at the Charlotte Police Academy. They have retired highway patrol officers, medics, fire personnel, etc. and they are training these guys to run this system. TIMS is an actual plan that first responders can take back to their departments.”
CF: Is this a written plan available for everyone, or do you have to go for training?
Hayes: “It’s a written plan done in a teaching type format that anyone can use. Motor vehicle accidents are unfortunate, because we live in an ‘I don’t care’ world right now. The other driver is thinking, ‘it is about me. I don’t care if you wreck your car, I have to get where I’m going.’ That is sad.”
CF: You’ve lived with what happened to you for 12 years now. What advice do you have for those that find themselves in a similar situation? You have done well and have a great outlook on life.
Hayes: “Workers comp required me to go through one year of counseling after this type of trauma. My psychologist really could not figure out how I operated. This accident, as tragic as it was, it never really bothered me. When I woke up in the hospital, I thought, I’m OK. I’ve lost my legs. I’m still breathing. I still have my family. Let’s go on with life.”
CF: A lot of people would not have that attitude waking up in the hospital and knowing what the future was going to be.
Hayes: “My family and I continued on with life. I think part of my help was I have the Lord upstairs on my side. I have a great wife that never left me. She stood beside me through thick and thin. We have three wonderful kids. Life was great and we just didn’t focus on the sad parts of it. We just wanted to focus on the future and whatever that future was going to be.”
CF: What a great outlook on life. I know many in your position have turned to drugs and alcohol.
Hayes: “I have actually spoken with several amputees that have taken that road. They have to understand that, yes, this was a bad thing, but something good will come out of it. A lot of people can’t understand that. They just focus on the fact that what happened was such a bad thing, and they can’t go on with life. That’s the wrong attitude to have. You have to focus on the fact that there is life outside this injury. For example in 2012, I went down to Haiti. I visited orphanages and clinics. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I had still been a paramedic at MEDIC. God has blessed me. He has opened doors to go and speak to different individuals about not only my situation, but also on how to go on with life and how to receive God.”
CF: What are you doing now?
Hayes: “I retired from Medic. Unfortunately I couldn’t get back out in the field and be a paramedic. Basically now I’m a dad. I get to be with my family and watch them grow. I’m a grandfather because I have three older kids from a previous marriage. I have four grandchildren. Each one of the grandchildren has their own personality. It is pretty awesome and I enjoy it. I do travel around to various speaking engagements. This comes in spurts. From January to March it is usually fairly quiet and then in April it starts picking up. I go to different EMS and fire organizations. I speak at churches and schools. I’ve traveled, like I said to Haiti, and to Canada. First time to Canada I spoke with an EMS group and they were interested in the safety side of what I had to say. I’ve returned to do some inspirational speeches at churches and I was asked to give a motivational speech at a diesel refinery after an employee suffered an injury. In Canada you get a lot of EMS training requests because many of their systems are run by the government and it is not working for them.”
CF: What additional advice can you give our readers?
Hayes: “I guess this goes across the board, but we need to educate the public. How do we do that? I am not sure. I think EMS, fire, police and other highway workers – we’ve got it down. We know what we’re doing. But the public does not understand. Some how we need to reach out to the public and educate them. If we can do that I think our first responder injuries and accidents will dramatically decrease. I don’t know if we need to go the route of trying to get into driver’s education and start at the teenage level. I just don’t have an answer for it. In February a Charlotte police car was hit in the emergency lane; other cars were slowing down, but an 18 wheeler didn’t slow down, hit another car, veered off and hit the police car and injured the two police officers. The proper education, I think would have been appropriate, maybe educate those in the truck driving industry through schools as well.”