When Two Worlds Collide

September 6, 2017

 Rebekah Edwards and Brianna Smith
Wiregrass Paramedicine student Rebekah Edwards, on the left, was surprised to learn she inspired Brianna Smith, on the right, to choose EMT as her profession after a chance meeting in the ER.

Valdosta, GA. On June 29 Brianna Smith’s day took a dramatic turn for the worst. “I was at a friend’s house and was cleaning the gun I had just gotten for my birthday when the accident happened,” said Brianna. She had graduated from Brooks County High School in May, turned 19 the first of June, and was already enrolled at Andrew College as a Criminal Justice major. She grew up watching Olivia Benson on Law and Order and knew she wanted to go into a field where she could help others. With her dad being her hunting partner, guns were no stranger to this 19-year-old. Much to her surprise what seemed to be a routine activity, cleaning her new gun, turned into a life changer for her. “I heard the gun go off and I pretty much don’t remember much after that until the hospital,” shared Smith.

The gun accidentally fired during the cleaning sending the stray bullet through her right cheek and exiting the left side of her face. “I was outside and they said I stumbled to the steps where I collapsed,” shared Smith. Brianna’s friend drove her to the South Georgia Medical Center and that’s where two worlds would collide. Wiregrass Georgia Technical College Paramedic student Rebekah Edwards was doing clinicals at South Georgia when Brianna was brought in the trauma unit. “I remember everything about that day; she was rolled in and I followed behind her. I remember looking into her eyes and seeing fear, but she kept her composure,” shared Rebekah. The nurses began asking millions of questions and Edwards realized that Brianna was starting to become overwhelmed, everything seemed to be happening too fast. “I developed a protectiveness for her and I was determined I wouldn’t leave her bedside until Lifeflight flew her away,” said Rebekah. As the clock ticked waiting for the helicopter to transport Smith to Shands in Gainesville, Rebekah stayed with her and talked with her about school and her job, and then Rebekah started sharing about herself, and things in her life. “I don’t usually open up so easy with people, but there was something different about Brianna,” added Rebekah.

Brianna admitted she was scared, nervous, and afraid as anyone would be with a bullet having gone through their face. She wondered if she would be able to start college in the Fall. She remembers the red shirt and the name Rebekah, a Wiregrass student, that keep her calm during one of the worst moments in her life. “She gave me hope, and stayed with me until my family could get to me,” added Brianna. She was life-flighted to Shands Medical Care in Gainesville, Florida where her injuries were treated and she was later released.

The two worlds that collided that hot June day would meet again. On August 17 Brianna entered her first college class, but at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College as a EMS Professions student. When Mark Ponder, EMS/Paramedicine Instructor, asked the new students to share their name and share why they choose this program, the class was silenced when Brianna, in her soft spoken voice, told her story. Brianna told the class it was because of the paramedic student named Rebekah, who wore a red shirt, she was there. Ponder knew who she was talking about and brought Brianna to meet Rebekah for the second time. “I had no idea what he was talking about until I saw her, and I was blown away,” said Rebekah. “I have reflected back on the entire situation, and it brings tears to my eyes every time.” Rebekah’s parents have always encouraged her to live her life in a way to inspire those who are around her. “I never knew I was capable of inspiring someone, but Brianna has shown me that I am,“ shared Rebekah.

When asked what made Rebekah choose Paramedic field, she dropped her head, and blushed, and shared that she was in an accident too, but a car wreck when she was in high school. The paramedic that cared for her was so kind and encouraging that she knew she wanted to be that person for someone else. It seems that Rebekah has done exactly that; now it’s Brianna’s turn to pass it on. To learn more about the EMS Professions and Paramedicine program at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, visit wiregrass.edu.