Avery-Mitchell Nurse May Have Saved A Life Outside of Prison

Friday, May 17, 2019 - 1:53pm

Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution licensed practical nurse Jane Smith was heading home from work on May 7 on U.S. 421 in Vilas like any other day when traffic came to a halt.

“A lady was running up the road screaming and I asked if anyone was hurt,” said Smith, who will celebrate her twentieth year at the facility in January. 

Smith’s car was third in line of stopped vehicles near the First Christian Church located on U.S. 421 near Boone. She saw a young man lying in the highway after being struck by a vehicle. Her experience and instincts took over and Smith did what she could for the injured man.

According to Smith, the man appeared to have a compound fracture of his left leg and was bleeding profusely from his head, mouth and face. As traffic was backed up for several miles on the winding highway, Smith and a former paramedic who was also stuck in the traffic worked to stabilize the man until local emergency medical personnel arrived.

“He tried to ask for help and I tried talking to him,” Smith said. “I told him we were getting him some help and tried to keep him calm. I held gauze on him working on his head and face and (the other person) worked to control the bleeding. I tried to keep his head and neck still.”

Smith stayed with the man until emergency personnel arrived and moved him onto a backboard. He was moved by Watauga County emergency personnel to nearby Brushy Fork Baptist Church, from where he was airlifted to Johnson City (Tenn.) Medical Center.

“I spent about 45 minutes with him,” Smith said. “I’m thankful that he’ll be OK. Everyone there worked well together. There was a lot of bleeding and it was very traumatic for everyone involved. I’ve never seen that type of injury before. 

“It’s sad to see a young man in that condition. I have a son around that age and I thought of him a lot (during the triage). I hope I helped and comforted him. I’m sure he will need a long recovery and therapy.”

Jerry Higgins