Ten minutes after being stung by a wasp, Susan Stone was in shock and her heart raced.
Then, she felt at peace.
“I felt like God had other things for me to do, but I felt near death and I knew unless (paramedics) got there soon that I would not survive,” she said of her April 7, 2019, medical emergency.
The house was empty. As fate would have it, her paramedicine instructor husband and ER nurse daughter were out of town.
She called 911, and the tones dropped at nearby Station 12 for paramedic Kyle Powers and crew.
The initial information was an allergic reaction, but when Powers heard the road information, he knew it was near the home of Susan and his former instructor Sam Stone.
“We often take care of people who are complete strangers, and we do that with the love for the job,” Powers said. “Certainly, when it’s someone you know, it takes it to a new level.”
The Hall County Fire Services crew broke down the doors to get to Susan.
“Susan, it’s Kyle,” Susan remembered hearing from a familiar voice.
“I remember in the ambulance he made a call to Sam, and while he was praying with me also (he) said, ‘Sam prepared me for this day to help you.’” Susan said. “I think that gave us both a lot of confidence.”
Susan went on to nominate Powers for the Georgia Emergency Medical Services Association’s 2019 EMT of the Year award, which Powers won in late February.
Lanier Tech instructor Brandon Carey, who said he owed much of his success and well-being to the Stones and Powers, won the EMS Educator of the Year award.
Staying up to the early morning hours celebrating over chicken wings, this small paramedicine family talked about how they were brought together to support each other in their hardest times.
“We just thought it was remarkable that God’s plan had brought us together in the ways that he has. If anything, it solidified our faith, and it was very encouraging that there is a plan and sometimes we have no idea where he is going with it,” Carey said.
Learning from the ‘father of EMS in Region II’
Powers graduated from Lanier Technical College, where Sam Stone’s reputation has drawn some in paramedicine to attend.
“Everybody said if you want to be the best paramedic you could possibly be, you need to go through Sam Stone’s program at Lanier Tech,” Carey said, who attended Lanier Tech when Powers was an adjunct instructor.
Powers taught on and off at Lanier Tech and also worked for Hall County from 2004-2009 and again in 2015.
On the day of Susan’s call, Powers got in contact with Sam, who of course had a lot of clinical questions.
“I told him I was going to take good care of his wife, that she was turning around,” Powers said.
Sam, in the estimation of Powers, is the “father of EMS for Region II.” His 15 years of training all combined for that 30-minute call.
“It was truly an honor to be able to take care of her, because Sam has invested and meant so much to me over the years as a mentor, and Susan has contributed so much to the medical community working at Northeast Georgia (Medical Center). If you think about both of their careers over their lifetime how many patients they’ve touched — for the medical community to be able to give back to them on that day was a real pretty special honor to be a part of,” Powers said.
Sam had known Powers as a student, a fellow instructor, a member of their church and now he knows him as someone who saved his wife’s life.
“Working and being able to separate that and be able to perform as a professional and keep the emotions out of it as much as possible just speaks volumes,” Sam said.
Someone to lean on
Almost a year before Susan’s emergency call, Carey and his wife, Susanna, got some medical news of their own: Susanna was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.
“Once you hear the word cancer, your head just kind of starts spinning and you don’t really know what to do or what direction to go. Sam was one of the people who was there to turn my shoulders and say, ‘Here, go this way.’ … Without that, it would have been impossible to successfully pull off a 100% pass rate with my first paramedic class, which was the largest paramedic class in Lanier Tech history,” Brandon Carey said.
Brandon Carey found inspiration in his wife’s cancer surgeon, Dr. Emily Black, who sat across from his wife with tears in her eyes and said she would do whatever she could to fight this.
“Essentially, she went to war for Susanna and just provided top-notch care, the best care. I can’t even tell you what that meant to me and the ripple effect that that has,” he said.
That human side of Black was something Carey took back to his students at Lanier Technical College.
“Not only are you affecting your patient’s life but you’re affecting their family members,” Brandon Carey said.
Sam would take Carey aside and advise him to to focus on the present and the most pressing tasks at hand. Put Susanna first, everything else second.
“The problem with being a medical provider is that you know all the things that can go wrong. All you see is the negative most of the time,” Brandon said. “He really would try to stop my head from going down those roads.”
Powers also lended his shoulder for Brandon to lean on while he and others kept the couple’s fridge stocked.
Susanna is now done with chemotherapy but has some surgeries ahead.
“We are so very proud of Brandon. He is a shining example of the great instructors we have at Lanier Technical College. I have said for years that Lanier Tech is home to the very best EMT/paramedic training program in the state of Georgia,” Lanier Tech President Ray Perren said in a statement. “Brandon’s award is even further evidence of the quality of our paramedicine program. Our instructors make the difference. We congratulate Brandon and thank him for his service to our students, to the mission of our college and to the paramedicine profession."