‘Thank You So Much’: Ten months after an accident nearly took his life, Jason McFadden finally met his ‘guardian angel’
Ten months ago, T.R. Miller band director Lance Gainous left his band room and took an unusual route to another school — one that put him on a path to save a life when he saw Jason McFadden fall from a tree.
This month, Gainous and McFadden met face to face in that band room for the first time since that fateful February day.
“Thank you so much,” McFadden said as he embraced the man who gave him CPR that day. “God bless you for saving my life. I have been wanting to meet you. Thank you so much. I can never thank you enough.”
“No problem,” Gainous said. “I would do it again.”
Then he brought some levity to the moment.
“You look good,” Gainous told Jason. “You look a little better than the last time I saw you.”
On Feb. 5, McFadden was cutting a tree down in his mother’s yard when a freak accident caused him to fall 20 feet out of the tree and face first into the pavement.
At the same moment, Gainous happened to be driving by and watched him fall. Gainous raced from his car to aid McFadden, who had no pulse and was facedown with blood pooling around him. Gainous giving him CPR and helped McFadden’s mother, Evelyn, who was on the phone with 911.
When paramedics arrived on the scene, Gainous, covered in blood, left the scene.
At their reunion, Gainous was able to tell his side of the story to Jason, who remembers nothing of the day of the accident. Gainous took a different route to the middle school that day, and he said he also believes that something else put him in the right spot at the right time.
“I stayed in the office and shuffled a few papers and just sat there for about 30 seconds to a minute,” Gainous said. “If I had not done that, I might have already gone by before the accident happened. It just all had to be at the exact right time. That is what is the interesting thing about it.”
Evelyn reminded Jason that when Lance got to him, he was not breathing.
“That is why I thank this man so much for saving my life,” Jason said.
Lance told Jason of how he moved him from facedown in his own blood to his back.
“After I thought about it and before I knew that you were OK, I was wondering if I had even done the right thing,” Gainous said. “I know you are not supposed to move people in that situation, but when I rolled you over, I gave you two breaths and then the doctors later said it might have shocked you back.”
“Wow,” Jason said.
“I knew I just had to roll you over to get you from not drowning in your own blood and then you started to breathe,” Gainous said. “That was the first time I had been close to that kind of trauma before.”
After the accident, Gainous tried to calm himself down from the day’s events.
Gainous made his trip to the middle school and finished his day up at school. That weekend he had honor band trips but had the man he helped on his mind the whole time.
Later on, Gainous found out that McFadden was the nephew of former T.R. Miller band director Johnny Folsom as Folsom’s wife and Evelyn are sisters.
Folsom, who retired from T.R. Miller in 1999, went on to Cairo High School in Georgia and was Gainous’ band director his senior year. After college, Folsom helped Gainous get the job at T.R. Miller.
Evelyn said she told her sister Betty Ann she did not know who the man was who assisted Jason, but figured Betty Ann would know after living in Brewton before moving to Georgia.
“I told her I did not know who he was but felt like he was a guardian angel or something,” Evelyn said. “I was hysterical that day. In my mind, Jason was dead and it was like if I touched him, it would confirm it. I just stood there looking at him, terrified, thinking he was dead. If Lance had not come up, to this day, I just don’t know.”
“I would have been dead in the street,” McFadden said.
“Everything though worked out real good,” Evelyn said. “He is absolutely a miracle. To hit head first, and get to Sacred Heart and hear all the doctors said that there was no hope, we had to wait 72 hours to know. After 72 hours, they would start giving us little percentages then they kept telling us the scenarios of how we could come out. He has done remarkably well. There are some personality changes. His wife and children think they have a different husband and a different daddy, but they are adjusting.”
Evelyn said Jason’s 9-year-old girl is very protective of him.
“She clings to him and won’t leave his side,” she said.
Early Christmas present
McFadden said the reunion with Lance was an early Christmas present.
“This is a very good gift,” McFadden said. “I have been wanting to meet him. It is just hard, with the emotions I feel, it has just been very hard. All the people that have helped me through this situation and all the people who are still helping me through this situation, it is hard for me to thank them all. It just emotionally hurts me so bad. It breaks me down so bad. I have just been told by all six or seven of my doctors, I am just going to start getting a brand-new start on things. It is just unreal. I just would not wish this on anybody. The compassion I have for anyone that is going through it is just so strong. It is terrible, just a terrible feeling.”
McFadden said when he takes a nap, there have been several occasions throughout the day that he wakes up and does not know where he is at or who he is.
“I don’t know how to use the phone or anything,” McFadden said. “It has taken me two hours one day to figure out who I am and where I am at, how to call my wife at work. I go through that quiet a bit.”
McFadden said his dog knows he is even different.
“She will not leave my side,” Jason said.
“His dog is like his youngest daughter, they just won’t leave his side,” Evelyn said. “When they first saw him at home, they would normally be in his lap, they just stood there and looked at him. The dog could tell something was different.”
McFadden said he still has a very long road ahead of him.
“I mean, work-wise I don’t know what to do,” McFadden said. “All my doctors are telling me I am nowhere near close to being able to go back to work. I am just waiting. Waiting to start my life over. I am almost 38 years old and I feel like I am completely changing my life and starting all over. I know for a fact there is no way I can go back to do doing the type of work I was doing before. There is just no way. I could not hold out with the pain I go through everyday. I would be at work consistently taking pain pills.”
McFadden said he is going to just spend Christmas just as he and his family are.
“After the first of the year I am going to decide what I want my new career to be and that is when I am going to make my decision,” he said. “It is almost like I am 16 again and trying to decide what I want to do again. I spent 20 years working one trade as an electrician. My first trade was when I was 18. I was an IE tech and learned it the hard way — on the job. I was talking to my doctor the other day and I told her it has taken me this long to get where I am at and I don’t think it is fair that I have to restart. She is a very good doctor, Dr. Bataglia, and she explained to me and has helped me so much through this and I owe her a lot of thanks.”
McFadden said she has done more than what he thinks doctors normally do.
“She has sat there and talked to me more than just about the issues,” McFadden said. “She is different. She will get in an adult conversation with me. She has helped me so much. She makes the appointments for me and calls and tells me to be where at what time. She has been great.”
McFadden said although he agrees with his many doctors about not being able to go back to work, they are just not in his position.
“It has been a very long year,” McFadden said. “Probably the longest year of my life. It really has. The main thing is I just don’t remember over half of it. It is just gone. My wife tells me some stories, that at the time were not funny, but not they are after looking at them. We do get some laughs out of it.”
McFadden said through the stories and pictures, he knows he was pretty “messed up.”
“For them to have my strapped to the bed, from shoulders to my chest, if I let them do that to me, I know I was messed up,” McFadden said.
McFadden said his life now consists of many highs and lows.
“They said people use seven or eight percent of their brain, all I have left is three percent of mine,” McFadden said. “All the front and back is nothing but scar tissue. The front controls your temper and all that is gone. I can believe it. The way I get mad so quick now is something I have never done before. They say there is no medicine I can take for all this. I am just going to have to learn from this and will need to just walk off.”
Jason said his wife has explained to people that if they see him walk off, it is OK.
“That is what I just have to do,” Jason said. “The things I go through day in and day out, is so hard to explain. I have had one full night sleep since this and that is when I took a pain pill.”
Jason said he is doing better but the main thing is he is alive.
“That is what I am just so thankful for,” Jason said. “My children and my wife, my mother and father and other family would miss me so bad if I was to have died. That is why I am so thankful. It is just unbelievable. The list of people I have to thank is gigantic. Just as soon as the Lord helps me, I am going to provide them with some gift card of thanks. My wife as mailed out so many cards, but I want to thank people also. It is just so hard to thank so many people. I know they did it out of love and compassion and they just felt like it was the right thing to do. It is just hard to figure out.”
“Small steps,” Gainous said.
“My doctor tells me that saying all the time,” Jason said. “Small steps. All the time.”