A Second Chance

When a helicopter passes overhead, most of us don’t give it much thought. But for Mary Lynn Matlock, that distinctive sound is a reminder she is living out her second chance at life. It’s been 20 years since Life Flight gave her that chance.

Neighborhoods now block the path once popular with bikers and hikers and kids seeking fun. Two decades ago Table Rock was a remote attraction for outdoor enthusiasts, as it attracted Mary Lynn (May) and her friends on that September afternoon. May was a 17 year old BSU student, fresh out of National Guard basic training. She, her roommate Deb, and a few other friends were feeling adventurous that day. The decision was made to conquer the natural obstacle course to the top of Table Rock. May recalls it was a dare that prodded her to go along while Deb chose to wait in the car at the foot of the trail.

Not dressed for the occasion, May’s unlaced Keds provided little traction on the trail. The path of loose dirt and rocks wandered up the face of the hill. As they neared the top the teens came upon a section of path washed out by rain. The break in the trail revealed jagged rocks nearly sixty feet below. Continuing the journey required a leap across the opening. Not much of a challenge for young, tall boys. But the much shorter May, was tall on confidence when she took her turn and jumped.

As she landed on the other side the soft bank gave way. After a short slide down the crevasse, remarkably, she caught herself. May was clawing her way back up to the trail when the rain loosened embankment crumbled once more. This time May took a free-fall to the rocks below. Her landing took its toll. She had missed the sharpest rocks that would certainly have impaled her, but May lay broken and bleeding and far from help.

In 1987 cell phones were not a common accessory so calling for help required a telephone. At the bottom of the trail Deb heard the sound of her friend’s body hitting the rocks, and then she heard the screams. From her position Deb could not see what had happened, but the screaming convinced her it must be bad. They needed help and it was up to her to get it.

Deb drove to the first house she saw, ran to the door and pleaded to use the phone. She was turned away. Frantically she ran to the next house where the call for help was made. The paramedics arrived quickly and made their way up the trail to the injured teen. The damage they could see was considerable; compound fractures to her arms, broken pelvis, facial lacerations and bleeding. But as serious as those injuries appeared, they could not see the worst of it.

Near her heart was a tear in her aorta. The largest artery in her body was slowly draining her of blood. Her time was running out and no one knew. But the paramedics could not safely remove her from where she lay because of the treacherous terrain. They knew it was time to call Life Flight.

The medical transport helicopter was quickly dispatched and managed to land near the dying girl. Within minutes May was receiving urgent care at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center. It didn’t take long for the Emergency Department (ED) team to realize May had problems other than broken bones. The damaged heart was diagnosed and before the night was over May underwent surgery to repair her heart and shattered bones.

As the drama played out, the attending ED physician told her parents the odds were 95 to 5 against May’s survival. But 27 days later, May left the hospital. And today she is here to tell this story; a story that would have had a different ending without Life Flight. In May’s words, “Had Life Flight not been around I never would have survived.”

Now an avid cyclist, May and her husband, Brent, occasionally find themselves riding down remote stretches of road in rural Idaho. That is one reason why May and Brent are devout Life Flight members. “We pay our $65 member fee each year. We would pay a whole lot more: it’s a priceless service,” May states without hesitation.

Brent adds, “Thank God for Life Flight…that they were able to be there. They named it right, that’s for sure – Life Flight.”

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