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EMS coordinator's condition remains critical

Brigitte Heller's EMS truck becomes rallying point for well-wishers

June 25, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • An emergency medical services vehicle sits in a yard on Sharpsburg Pike Monday urging people to pray for Brigitte Heller. Heller is a Washington County emergency medical services coordinator who was involved in an auto accident on Maryland's Eastern Shore last week.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

With their mother in no shape for visitors and an outpouring of support for her and her family, Brittany Heller and Terry Doyle put Brigitte Heller’s emergency services truck in her Sharpsburg Pike front yard on Sunday to give people another outlet to express their support and thoughts, Doyle said.

People continued to stop by the vehicle, about seven miles south of Hagerstown, to gather, talk, hug and cry on Monday.

“My mom worked all the time, and as sick as she is and everything, no one could really visit her at the hospital,” said Doyle, 32.

Brigitte Heller, 51, is a Washington County emergency medical services coordinator who trains the county’s volunteer emergency services crews.

She remained in critical condition Monday night at R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Medical Center in Baltimore, a hospital spokesman said.

Heller has been through numerous surgeries since June 14, and her prognosis is poor, said Doyle, a paramedic with the Washington County Division of Emergency Services.

Doyle said his mother had been able to answer “yes” or “no” questions with a hand squeeze the first few days after the accident. But her condition deteriorated after a seven-hour surgery June 17 and she has not been conscious in recent days, he said.

On the morning of June 14, the Nissan Xterra that Heller was driving was hit by another vehicle on U.S. 50 near Easton, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Brittany Heller, 19, who was a passenger in the Xterra, was released from Shock Trauma on June 17.

“EMS is just a huge family and we love our family, and that’s why we’re here, to show support since we can’t go see her,” said Kelli Morgan, an emergency medical technician with Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical Services.

Morgan stopped by the yard Monday morning with three other people.

“This is just a place where we can, show support ... We’re all praying for her,” Morgan said.

Easton Police said a 17-year-old male from Glenelg, Md., was driving a 2006 BMW west on U.S. 50 between Dutchmans Lane and the southern end of the Easton Bypass when he fell asleep and crossed into the median shortly after 7:30 a.m. June 14.

Before crossing into the median, the teenager tried to regain control of the car, overcompensated, lost control and swerved into both westbound lanes, police said. The BMW traveled into the path of Heller’s eastbound Xterra after leaving the median.

Heller’s Xterra came to rest on its roof in a field, police said.

On Monday, Easton Police Lt. Gregory Wright said no charges had been filed against the BMW driver and that the investigation was continuing.

Doyle said several of his mother’s organs were failing as of Monday morning.

“We’ve made a lot of difficult decisions,” Doyle said, including the decision he and his sister made Sunday for a do-not-resuscitate order.

Doyle said that was the “hardest decision that we’ve ever made.”

Doyle said it’s the family’s belief that if Heller’s heart stops, “that she’s done fighting, that she’s ready to go.”

“People have respected our privacy a good bit,” Doyle said.

On Sunday, he, his sister and some friends put Heller’s work truck in the front yard with some messages written on the truck for people to pray. Doyle said he posted a message on Facebook, inviting people to stop by the truck and leave messages and take pictures of the truck to post on their Facebook pages.

Since his mom is not in shape for visitors at the hospital, the truck gives friends a place to gather to show their support, he said. Using her work truck as a gathering spot was appropriate because Heller was devoted to her job as a Washington County emergency medical services coordinator and often worked late into the night, Doyle said.

A note signed by one woman, placed on the truck, read “Thinking of you always” and had the heart shape that symbolizes love. Someone else placed a small figure of an angel with the words “With God all things are possible” near one of the truck’s tires.

“Everybody in fire and rescue has supported me,” Doyle said.

People have mowed the grass, cared for the family’s dogs, and sent cards and money to support the family, Doyle said.

Among the donations was $200 in gift cards from Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical Services that family members are using for food, and to pay for gas for the trips back and forth to the hospital in Baltimore, he said.

Heller is a past chief of Boonsboro Ambulance & Rescue, where she is a lifetime member, and also is a member of the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway, Doyle said. As a paramedic, Heller periodically ran calls for Boonsboro and Halfway companies, in addition to her training duties, he said.

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