RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WSAV) — The husband of a partially paralyzed Bryan County middle school teacher says he’s forever grateful for the emergency workers who came to her rescue.
Valerie Feske was seriously hurt over Memorial Day weekend in an inflatable water slide accident at a friend’s house.
Her husband, Brent, says Bryan County Emergency Services wasted no time in coming to Valerie’s aid on May 23.
“They were professional, they got there quickly,” he said. “It was, ‘bam,’ they were there, they got her to Memorial [Health], and in short, they were a part of saving my wife’s life. I mean, it was a devastating injury.”
Kristina Marchetti, one of the responding EMS workers, recalls finding Valerie at the bottom of the water slide.
She says Valerie handled the frightening ordeal remarkably well.
“She was tough as nails, she didn’t have any complaints other than tingling in her hands and arms, and she couldn’t move her legs but she didn’t cry,” Marchetti said.
“Her family and friends did a great job holding C-spine while we got there, we were able to get in the water with her and put her on the backboard,” she added.
Her relationship with Valerie didn’t end after transporting her to the hospital. She and other EMS workers have continued to support her and ask Brent about her progress.
“We’ve all been thinking about her, you know, throughout this whole time that the accident had happened, so she’s definitely been on our minds ever since,” Marchetti said.
For their heroic efforts, Brent shared goody bags with each of the EMS workers who assisted his wife last month.
“I told them, ‘you’re a part of a team of people, including the doctors, the nurses and everything, that saved my wife’s life, and forever I’m grateful,” Brent said as he and other members of Val’s Village visited them at Bryan County Emergency Services on Thursday.
“They don’t get enough kudos and PR in terms of just what great stuff they do, and I’m glad I can shed some light on them, today is really all about them and what they do,” he said.
To aid Valerie in her long road toward recovery, her family arranged to send her to Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, a spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation clinic.
The Bryan County EMS workers who first helped her out of the water say they were honored with the opportunity last week to take her there themselves.
“I’m glad we were the ones that were able to bring her to her new home for a few months,” Marchetti said.
Brent says it shows just how much of an impact his wife has left on them.
“They contacted me and were like, ‘we can’t stop thinking about her, how’s she doing?’” he said. “It still kind of blows my mind, the love and the response and the outpouring.”
The husband and father of two children says the tragic event has made him understand the value of a community’s support.
“It’s really helping me, my family and without a doubt helping Val,” Brent said. “She knows that she has this team behind her, and I think it’s just gonna help push her through.”
His wife’s friends set up the Val’s Village Facebook page early last week, where followers can check Valerie’s progress.
Already, Valerie has amassed an astounding 6,300 “villagers” supporting her recovery.
She’s gotten letters of encouragement from across the country, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently shared his well wishes on Twitter.
Friends also set up a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $54,000.
Brent says he’s been learning a lot about spinal cord injuries and realizes his wife has a long, slow and difficult journey ahead of her.
Still, he remains optimistic.
“Less than two weeks out, she’s already improving,” Brent revealed. “They have a grading scale, and on Monday, they did a test, and they were able to upgrade her from what’s called an A to a B.”
This means there are some signals present in her spinal cord, but it’s still “very weak.” The good news is that Valerie’s doctors are starting to see signs of improvement.
Marchetti says her new friend’s progress thus far has been incredible.
“She definitely has that mindset, she’s not gonna give up,” Marchetti said. “I’m pretty sure she’s gonna walk in here once she gets out of Shepherd and we’ll be able to see all the amazing things she’s done.”