Rescuers used the Jaws of Life to remove Knight from the mangled wreckage, and he was rushed to St. Anthony’s with six broken ribs, several fractured vertebrae, and a full-thickness laceration on his head that exposed his skull.
Answering the call
St. Anthony’s caregivers put fire chief on the road to recovery
"I remember thinking, 'Oh, no, this is not going to be good." Richard Knight - Potosi, Mo., Fire Chief
Richard Knight has dedicated his life to serving others. For 20 years, he has served as volunteer fire chief of the Potosi Fire Protection District. And each holiday season, he teams with Vera, his wife of 30 years, as Santa and Mrs. Claus to spread cheer at nursing homes.
But on Monday afternoon, March 25, it was Richard’s turn to be served – by St. Anthony’s – after his public service took an unexpected detour. He was on a non-emergency call, hauling water for fire assistance to the neighboring town of Richwoods, Mo., when the wheels of the truck he was driving slipped off the wet road. He over-corrected, causing his load of 16,660 pounds of water to shift. The truck rolled not once, but twice. Although he was wearing a seat belt, he was halfway out the side window by the time the truck came to a rest.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh, no, this is not going to be good,’” recalled Richard, 51. “I didn't think I was going to survive the second rollover. I guess I have a few more things to accomplish, because somebody was on my side, telling me it just wasn't my time.”
“The first night I came home from the hospital,” Vera Knight reflected, “to see his boots on the floor, and his coat and lunch box, was really hard.”
He escaped the ordeal with broken ribs and vertebrae, but did not suffer a concussion. Richard was released on March 30, after he was fitted with a back brace by orthopedic surgeon Benjamin Crane, M.D.
“We feel like we've been blessed,” Vera said. “I cannot stress to anyone enough how wonderful everyone at St. Anthony’s was. We were treated not just with professionalism, but with love. They treated us as though we were family members.”
“Since we've been home, we've looked at the photos of the truck, and realize what a miracle it was that he was able to live through it,” Vera added. “It's been a growing experience for us, a humbling experience. Petty things in our lives that once seemed so important, now are not so important.”
Dr. Crane said Richard likely will make a full recovery.
“Fortunately, the fractures are all amenable to bracing, rather than surgery,” Dr. Crane said. “Given the nature of the accident, I think he's very lucky that the injuries are not worse. He should be able to return to his volunteer firefighting duties without much difficulty.”
At his home in Cadet, Mo., Richard improves a little each day, and friends and family have been eager to lend their support, Vera said.
Richard’s fondest fans include his nieces and nephews. Missy Naeger, an R.N. at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital, posted a heartfelt tribute to her uncle on Facebook after the accident. She said he had helped to inspire her to become a nurse.
“A lot of why I am what I am is because of Uncle Ricky,” Missy said. “We've been extremely pleased with how St. Anthony's has cared for him. He's had great doctors and great nurses.”
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