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Standing strong

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Former paramedic tells story of determination, even during the toughest of times

By Jonathan E. Coleman
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It’s hard to imagine a gymnasium full of middle school students sitting in absolute silence. Then again, it’s hard to imagine not being completely enthralled by Tim Hayes’ story.

It is a story of pain and suffering, determination and hard work, and, finally, of triumphantly defying the odds and reaching one’s goals.

At an early age, Hayes decided what he wanted to do with his life by watching his mother, an Emergency Medical Technician.

Hayes told students at C.C. Griffin Middle School about the first emergency call he responded to as a 16-year-old.

“That call changed my life,” he said. “I was a normal teenager, then I took that call and it changed my direction.” 

In the years that followed, Hayes set goals to work his way up through the paramedic ranks, eventually joining the Mecklenburg EMS in 1996.

After seven years of service with Mecklenburg County, another call would again change Hayes’ life forever. 

While responding to a minor accident along Interstate 77, Hayes found himself in the middle of a much larger accident when a tractor trailer plowed into the original scene.

“I was struck by a fully-loaded 18 wheeler, my MEDIC truck, a Mercedes SUV and a Jeep,” Hayes told students at C.C. Griffin. “I never lost consciousness. I can tell you everything that happened that day.”

As a result of the accident, both of Hayes’ legs were amputated and part of the guard rail penetrated the left side of his chest.

“As a paramedic, I knew how bad it was,” he said. 

But as a person deeply rooted in his faith and surrounded by a supportive family, Hayes said he was determined not to let his life be defined by the accident, but by his determination to overcome the challenges that the accident presented, most notably, his inability to walk.

Hayes promised himself early on that he would walk again. He even set a deadline for himself, determined to walk within three months of the accident.

Three weeks after the accident, the Kannapolis native left the hospital, under the watch of a home health nurse, and moved into a handicap-accessible apartment. He began rehabilitation three days a week, and within six weeks, he took his first steps on prosthetic legs.

“From there, I haven’t stopped,” he said, noting that he had stumbled plenty of times, but always pulled himself up and kept working at it.

His story of perseverance is what Hayes hopes will define his life. It’s that strength and determination that Allison Walker, a C.C. Griffin teacher, wanted to get across to students at the school.

“I wanted them to see the perseverance (and) self-determination that he has to live each day to the fullest,” she said. “I wanted them to see that he never gives up on life no matter how hard it gets… Sometime kids need to see it to believe it.”

Now, Hayes travels across the county and throughout Canada, sharing his story with schools, church groups and others. It is, he says, his new calling. And it’s not something he questions.

“He said many family members questioned why this had to happen,” Walker said. “Tim says he never questions why he just feels that this happened for a reason and now he has to move on and not give up. I wanted (the students) to see that people do get second chances in life. Tim got one and he is using it to try to make a difference. 
Hopefully the students will also use their ‘second chances’ and will study harder, respect their parents, strive to do better and overall become a better person.”

• Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at 704-789-9105.


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