Tony Bland, a 15-year veteran of Vanderbilt’s LifeFlight, has been named “EMT of the Year” by the Tennessee Ambulance Service Association.
Bland began his emergency medical services (
EMS) career more than 20 years ago as an army medic. After leaving military service, he worked in the Robertson, Cheatham and Sumner
EMS systems before joining LifeFlight as a communication specialist in 1991.
“He found his true calling as a communications specialist,” said Jeanne Yeatman, R.N., program director for LifeFlight. “He has been an integral part of more than 4,000 patient missions.”
John Morris Jr., M.D., director of the division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care, said he couldn’t think of a more deserving emergency medical technician (EMT).
“Tony has an uncanny ability to distinguish the chatter from the catastrophe in the
EMS environment,” Morris said. “Whenever I get a call from Tony about the possibility of mass casualties I know to drop what I am doing and head to the hospital. Tony has a gift as a flight communicator and is a gift to all of us.”
Bland was nominated for the award by his peers at
EMS after surviving a near-death experience this past September.
On that night he experienced severe chest pain and contacted
EMS for assistance. Shortly after arriving at
Center he experienced a Vfib cardiopulmonary arrest. Efforts to resuscitate him were halted after an hour.
“But in typical style Tony persisted,” said Yeatman. “He continued to make efforts to spontaneously breathe and was placed back on the cardiac monitor by the ER staff. They found he had a perfusing rhythm; he was taken to the cath lab where he underwent an angioplasty and balloon pump insertion.”
He was then transported to Vanderbilt. Initially his prognosis appeared poor, but despite the odds, one week later he awoke from a comatose state.
“His first question was about the NASCAR race the week prior,” Yeatman said. “His courage and perseverance both as a professional and as an individual have been an inspiration to us all.”
Yeatman presented the award, a crystal vase, to Bland at the annual Tennessee Ambulance Service Association conference held recently in Gatlinburg.