An accident with your children in the car is any parent’s worst nightmare. You can have the safest car, the best car seat, and drive carefully … yet it can happen in the blink of an eye. But the stories of amazing first responders give us hope in these dark situations. For Summer Ginn and her 2-year-old daughter, Raelyn, the firefighters went above and beyond their duty, and they couldn’t be more thankful.
On one normal Tuesday morning outside of Atlanta, Summer was driving her daughter to school. When she explained the accident to Babble, she said that the speed limit was 55 mph and the car in front of her was going 40 mph. When the dotted lines allowed her to pass, she moved over, but then the car sped up and wouldn’t allow her to pass.
“There was a curve up ahead and I saw an 18-wheeler coming at me so I had to get back into my lane. I turned my wheel to get back in my lane but must have been going too fast because I lost control and went off the shoulder. I over-corrected and crossed over both lanes and hit a tree head on,” she told Babble.
They later told her the car ricocheted off of four trees before finally coming to a stop.
The firefighters of Hall County Fire Department, Stations 5 and 12, responded to the call and medics put Summer on a backboard, attempting the stem the bleeding from a large gash on her head. But all Summer could think about was her daughter.
“All of you were asking me tons of questions, sticking IVs in my arms, cutting off my clothes, and trying to control all the bleeding. But all I could think about was Raelyn,” Summer wrote. “I kept repeating over and over, ‘She’s autistic. She can’t talk. She can’t show you where she hurts. She’s gonna be so scared. Please get my husband or my mom here so they can hold her. Please just get someone here.’”
As they were being transported to the hospital, Raelyn was crying uncontrollably. Summer felt helpless to comfort her daughter as she was strapped to the backboard. One firefighter, Caleb Rumbaugh, was holding Raelyn and trying everything to calm her down. He asked Summer if there was anything they could do to comfort her, and she responded, “Will you please sing ‘Wheels On the Bus’ to her?”
For the 20-minute ride to the hospital, he did. Caleb sang a “unique” rendition of “Wheels on the Bus” over and over again to keep Raelyn quiet and calm. And it made all the difference for both Summer and Raelyn.
“Every minute that went by without hearing her cry was another minute I was relatively at ease,” Summer wrote. “I knew that my body would eventually heal, and the physical pain would fade. But there’s that type of pain that only a mother understands; the pain you feel when your baby is scared or hurt … that hurt me so much more than hitting that tree head on.”
Summer learned that Caleb has a younger brother who also has autism. “I think he grew up learning how to think outside the box when it comes to connecting with an autistic child. He was definitely meant to be there that day.”
The accident, which left her car completely mangled, resulted in a large gash on Summer’s head, and her right hand was torn up and bruised. Raelyn miraculously only suffered from a scratched up face and injured ankle. The emotional toll has been worse than the physical for both Summer and Raelyn.
“She’s a tough little kid and was back to herself within a few days,” Summer explained to Babble. “Those first few days, she startled very easily and was really jumpy. And the first week or so, she completely freaked out when we had to get in the car. Sometimes when we are driving past the scene of the accident, she tenses up and starts crying, but it is happening less and less. “
Summer also told us about her husband’s reaction to the incident. She said that Patrick is a charge nurse at a local hospital, and he was off that day.
“I told him, ‘Do not answer your phone for anyone that calls you from the hospital. They can figure things out on their own today.’ So the paramedics had to call him four or five times just to get him to answer!”
Although the accident will stay with Summer as one of the scariest experiences of her life, Caleb’s singing to her daughter to keep her calm changed everything.
“I know you probably just wanted to do whatever you could to just make her be quiet. Those moments of hearing nothing but your original rendition of ‘Wheels On the Bus’ were my saving grace. Because if I didn’t hear her crying, I knew she was okay. I knew if she was okay, then I would be fine.”
After the accident, Caleb Rumbaugh’s wife, Cory, contacted Summer to tell her what an impact this had on him as well. She said that Caleb “rarely talks about his calls at home and that when he does share his calls with me, I intently listen because I know they affected him somehow,” she wrote to Summer. “He came home the following morning, after working another 48-hour shift, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘I got to sing to a little girl.’”
Summer’s blog post on My Atlanta Moms Club was a touching thank-you letter to the firefighters who went beyond their duties to comfort Raelyn, and therefore keep Summer calm as well.
“So thank you for doing so much more than what you’re trained to do. Thank you for giving me those brief moments of hope while she was content and quiet. By keeping her calm, you kept me sane (relatively). You made the most traumatic experience of my life sting a little bit less. Our car wreck was just another day on the job for you, but you left a lasting impression on me and I will never forget what you did for us that day.”
Summer and Raelyn were able to meet with Caleb again this weekend, and Caleb, who has already done so much for this family, gave Raelyn one more amazing gift: a stuffed Care Bear that sings that special song, “Wheels on the Bus.”
I know that song and those firefighters will always mean so much to Summer and Raelyn. We love hearing stories of first responders not only making a difference with their life-saving skills, but changing lives through acts of kindness too.
h/t: WSB-TV2More On