10:44 AM

Giving Thanks for a Second Chance

Burn patient meets with first responders including OSF LIfe Flight crew

Ryon Richardson w/OSF Life Flight

It was April 7th and a perfect early spring day to get work done on the farm. 20 year old Ryon Richardson, working a field in Amboy, Illinois, was applying anhydrous ammonia, a colorless gas used as an agricultural fertilizer with fumes that can suffocate. Suddenly a large quality of gas was released and Ryon found himself in big trouble. His skin was being burned and and he was struggling to breathe.

9-1-1 was called and the Amboy fire department was dispatched.  

"That day and the previous month before we had trained on it," says Amboy Assistant Fire Chief Scott Wittenauer. "Went over all the situations you would have when you had an anhydrous burn."

Amboy Fire Asst. Chief Wittenauer on anhydrous training

Because the firefighters were gathered for that training, Wittenauer believes precious minutes were saved. But the fortunate circumstances of that day didn't end there.

Once Wittenauer learned it was an anhydrous burn, he immediately called for a helicopter. The Peru, Illinois-based OSF LIfe Flight crew, on approach returning from a call, instead immediately headed to the scene. Because they were already in the air, OSF Life Flight nurse Cara Adams estimates it bought another five minutes in response time.  

At the scene responders could only cool the burns with water, but it was most critical to open Ryon's airway. Successful, he was airlifted to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, a Level 1 Trauma Center and the regions only burn unit. 

Now more than seven months into his recovery, Ryon thought it was time to personally thank his life-savers. He met with Amboy firefighters and EMT's, plus the OSF LIfe Flight crew that was with him that day.   

"They saved my life and they were the first ones," says burn patient Ryon Richardson. "I'd have to say they're better than the doctors, being the first ones there and knowing what's going on."

Ryon Richardson on why he wanted to thank first responders

Flight nurse Adams is grateful Ryon made the effort to meet with them.

"Very rewarding," says Cara Adams, flight nurse for OSF Life Flight. "It's the only thing is - I don't get to see to the end of care and that's what I miss. So, it is awesome to see people come back. Because we drop patients off and it's like, well, we hopefully we get to see them again, you know, in a different capacity. So yeah, it's awesome." 

OSF Life Flight nurse Adams on seeing patients after rescue

Ryon, now 21, undergoes therapy once a week and is still facing another surgery. He's back to work part-time and even helps on the farm when he can. 

Giving Thanks OSF Life Flight b-roll