INDIANAPOLIS — A group of fast-thinking first responders gave a Boone County teen a second chance at life after her heart stopped beating following a car crash.
"She should not be here today," said J.R. Shelton of his 17-year-old daughter, Mattie.
Shelton’s daughter is here, though, sitting up in a hospital bed at Ascension St. Vincent, eating Jell-O.
"Say 'Hi,' Annie," Shelton told his daughter, as he rolled the camera on his cell phone.
"Hi," Mattie said, waving.
Her smile and her voice - two things Shelton didn’t know if he’d ever see or hear again when he found out last Tuesday Mattie had been in a car accident.
"Very grateful to hear her voice again," said Shelton.
It was Mattie’s voice her father was hoping to hear last week when he called her cell phone after hearing an ambulance racing somewhere near their house in Advance.
At the time, Mattie was expected home at any minute.
"I could tell something was wrong," Shelton explained.
This father’s worst fears were confirmed when he heard a police officer’s voice on the other end of the phone.
"He said, ‘You need to get down here. She’s been in a bad accident,’" Shelton recalled the officer telling him.
"I was very fortunate to get there in time to be able to do my job," said Thorntown Police Department Deputy Marshal Robert Viergutz, the man behind the voice on the phone that night.
Viergutz was the first responder to get to the crash scene, where investigators say an SUV T-boned the car Mattie was riding in at the intersection of SR 75 and SR 32 in Boone County.
"I went over to Mattie and recognized she was in full cardiac arrest, not breathing, couldn’t find a pulse," Viergutz said.
He said he started CPR on the teen and never stopped until an ambulance got to the scene.
"Put the defibrillator on her and we were able to get a successful jump on her heart," when EMS personnel took over, Viergutz said.
It was enough to give Mattie a fighting chance until the ambulance could get her to the hospital.
"They were still working on her in the ambulance when I showed up," Shelton recalled of arriving at the scene.
"Without the two steps, she likely wouldn’t have made it to the hospital, even," said Dr. Lewis Jacobson, the trauma medical director at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital.
Once at the hospital, an entire trauma team worked to try and save Mattie’s life.
"Both lungs were collapsed, so there was still a lot of work that needed to be done," Jacobson said.
A week later, after being taken off a breathing tube and ventilator, Jacobson is amazed at how well Mattie is doing.
"She’s really made a remarkable recovery," he said. "I think it was really a series of miracles."
That’s what Shelton sees when he looks at his daughter, now awake, smiling and talking.
"Very much a miracle," said Shelton.