A dream vacation turned into a nightmare for a Princeton fire captain and his wife after suffering a traumatic injury while ziplining in Saint Lucia.
PFD Captain Steve Gammons and his wife Kristi were on a Caribbean cruise with PFD firefighter Jacob Stiltz and his wife Katy. Up until the day of the accident, the couples had been exploring the cruise ship and towns at various ports of call.
In Saint Lucia the Gammons and Stiltz families decided to try ziplining, but that’s when their trip went awry.
Steve was launching himself from a zipline platform when he caught his leg, causing it to bend completely backward, and the weight of his body went down the zipline, reported Kristi.
Steve ended up with an open compound fracture of his tibia and displaced fracture of his fibula.
Fortunately, with Kristi’s medical training as a full-time flight nurse, part-time work as an ICU nurse at Medical City McKinney and part-time work as a paramedic for American Medical Response, she and Jacob were able to immediately provide first aid to Steve.
The team worked to stop the bleeding, splinted the injury and wrapped it. Being in a country with less than stellar medical conditions, Kristi knew they had to return to the United States immediately but accomplishing such a feat was the question on everyone’s minds.
“Healthcare is very different over there. They just don’t have the resources that we have here,” Kristi said.
Complicating the matter was the lack of international coverage on their cell phones, leaving them to communicate using only the hotel’s WiFi once they got settled in Saint Lucia.
“Everyone back home had to make all of the arrangements for us. We had to set up our own medical evacuation, which could’ve never happened without the help of our friends, family and the community. They literally called everyone to get us home,” Kristi said.
Since Steve is a part-time EMT for AMR and Kristi works for them too, phone calls started going up the corporate ladder until they reached AMR’s parent company Global Medical Response CEO and President Randy Owen.
“They really stepped up,” Princeton Assistant Fire Chief Michael Stiltz said. “Essentially the president told them that he wanted Gammons home yesterday.” Michael is the father of Jacob Stiltz.
Due to the communication challenges, at one point there were three different flight teams ready to get Gammons reported Michael.
It typically takes 24 to 36 hours to secure an international flight through the state department, but in this instance, it took less than 12 hours. Even Senator John Cornyn reached out and offered his help to the firefighter and his family.
Steve did not receive pain medicine for his injury until the fixed wing medical aircraft landed in Saint Lucia Friday, May 31.
The couple flew from the island to Florida where they refueled before landing at McKinney National Airport. They were met by the McKinney Fire Department and Steve was transported to McKinney Medical Center.
Steve had surgery Saturday morning to clean out his injuries and will have an additional surgery this week.
“It was truly a nightmare, one of my biggest fears. We are so thankful and so blessed though for our family, friends and community,” Kristi said.
As word of Steve’s injury spread, an outpouring of support for the fire captain who has dedicated more than 15 years to the community of Princeton, was returned tenfold.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to provide funds for the family as Steve recovers from his injuries.
“Being a firefighter is Steve’s life. If this injury is not treated properly, it could mean that his career will be in jeopardy,” says information on his GoFundMe account.
More than $14,000 has been raised by 189 people in three days through the account.
To donate to the cause, go to www.gofundme.com/assist-steve-gammons.
The Professional Firefighters Association of Princeton is also accepting donations for the Gammons family. Donations can be dropped off at the Princeton Fire Station located at 510 Woody Drive.
By Wyndi Veigel • News Editor • [email protected]
For more stories like this subscribe in print or online.