Vail firefighter back at work after horrific March accident
Lt. Scott Bridges has had much community support since March 1 accident
Special to the Daily
On the morning of March 1 this year, my husband, Lt. Scott Bridges of Vail Fire and Emergency Services, was driving to work when he came across a car accident. It was 6:15 a.m. and snowing. Someone was screaming.
As a first responder with 20 years experience, he had the skills and the mindset to make the split-second decision to pull over, briskly walk back and help. He started yelling out, “Are you OK? Who’s hurt?” Someone was on their phone. He called out again, “Are you calling 911?”
That’s all he remembers.
Scott lost at least five hours of memory that morning before becoming aware that he was in the Vail Health Hospital emergency room with three of his closest colleagues and his fire chief by his side. Scott had sustained serious injuries including a severe concussion, multiple facial fractures, two fractured fibulas and a torn ACL and LCL. He would be out of work for six to nine months.
I then endured some of the most painful hours of my life — 52 hours, to be exact — as I was nowhere nearby. I was in the middle of a three-month volunteer teaching placement on the outskirts of Suva, Fiji. I started my journey home immediately, not arriving until Sunday, March 3, in the late afternoon.
A community in shock
It didn’t take long before I realized I wasn’t the only one in shock. I flew in to both a fire department and a valley also reeling from the horror of Scott’s accident and subsequent injuries. What then became more shocking though, in the most beautiful of ways, was the community’s response. When I reflect back on those first few days and weeks, I can now confidently say that I coped because of a few, but Scott? He coped and healed because of many.
From that very first phone call, the Vail Fire Department set the tone and the standard for how we were all going to navigate through this. I remained strong because they did. These firefighters set the bar high and I fell into line. They were modeling how to move through a traumatic event and I followed suit. And they did so while managing their own trauma with a level of integrity and professionalism I will never forget.
But then came the absolute flood of support for Scott; from text messages to voice mails, from hospital visits to a personal delivery of a chai latte from Starbucks (his regular order) along with a day’s profits donated from Yeti’s Grind and the overwhelming response to his GoFundMe page. Familiar faces and anonymous donors alike were all sending Scott one singular message: that he mattered and that his actions were beyond appreciated.
An emotional, caring response
After five days slowly recovering in the bubble that was the intensive care unit, Scott then emerged to months of a community showing their raw emotions in seeing Scott out and about, many moved to tears in relief that they could recognize him; his face was healing quickly and I could see a valley starting to heal alongside my husband.
To a valley that has rallied around my husband, I would like to share some wonderful news (much to my husband’s horror as he has no idea I’m writing this!): Lieutenant Scott Bridges starts his first shift back on the engine today! To the residents of East Vail (where he will now be stationed), if you see Lt. Bridges, please make a very big deal about him being back (unless he’s on a call — don’t do that!). Scott has overcome incredible odds and he’s ready to serve the citizens of Vail once again.
This year I have witnessed that not only does science and medicine heal, but so too, does love and kindness. To the uniqueness that is the Vail Valley, from the residents of East Vail all the way through to Gypsum, I thank you. And to the Eagle River Fire Protection District, the Eagle County Paramedic Services and to the Vail Fire and Emergency Services, particularly those on duty that fateful morning, all I can say, with the utmost gratitude, is thank you. And to you, Lt. Bridges, I could not be more proud.