Off Duty Respiratory Therapist Saves Life on Florida Highway

 Updated: June 24, 2016

  Tags: AARC MembersRT Hero

Derrick Layer
Derrick Layer, RRT — second from right — was off duty and on his way to the beach when he rushed to help save a man involved in a motorcycle crash. This photo was taken after paramedics had arrived. Photo credit: George Bortle, Florida News Service

Derrick Layer, RRT, was on his way to the beach one Saturday last month when traffic on SR 528 near the I-95 exit in Central Florida came to a sudden halt. “I saw out of my window people pulling off to the side of the road and frantically getting out of their cars,” says the AARC member.

Knowing his expertise as a respiratory therapist might be needed, he immediately pulled over as well and ran over to the site of the commotion to see what was going on. “It was a motorcycle crash involving only the motorcyclist and left a man lying on the ground in the middle of the highway,” says Layer.

He ran over to the man and did a quick assessment. The victim was pulsatile and breathing adequately, but had an obvious head injury and was thrashing around badly. The only person with medical training on site, Layer quickly marshalled the forces around him, directing about seven of the other people who had stopped to hold down the man’s arms and legs while he held the C-Spine.

“He was yelling in agony and thrashing about, so getting people to hold his legs and arms down was necessary for his own safety,” says Layer. There was no time to even collect vitals. “All I was worried about was keeping him calm and his blood pressure from elevating due to the nature of his head injury.”

Derrick Layer RRT
Layer holds the C-Spine of man injured in motorcycle accident. Photo credit: George Bortle, Florida News Service

By then 911 had been called, but due to the location of the accident, it took them a while to arrive on the scene, says Layer. He and his helpers hung in there till they showed up. Paramedics then took over and stabilized the man and he was airlifted to a nearby hospital. That’s the last Layer heard about the man’s condition.

Derrick Layer says helping to rescue the man was quite an experience, but he was happy to be able to put his RT skills to good use. “I have been an RRT for almost five years and I work in the ED/ICU at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando, FL.  The facility is a level 1 trauma center and sees critically ill patients and incidences like this daily, which in turn helped prepare me for medical emergencies such as this.”

He also enjoyed the chance it gave him to at least plant the seed of RT recognition in his fellow rescuers. “I remember at one point a gentleman asked if I was a doctor. I looked at him and said, ‘nope, I’m an RT,’ which of course triggered a confused look on his face,” he recalls now with a laugh. “I love being an RT!”