Chris Daly was running errands last July 20 before heading out of town for a week.
He was wearing a bathing suit, a t-shirt and flip-flops.
But as a 20-year paramedic for the Courthouse Volunteer Rescue Squad and a teacher of tactical medicine for government and military units, he was as prepared as anyone to respond to emergencies.
He found one that day.
30-year-old Mark Lovejoy was riding his motorcycle on General Booth Boulevard in Virginia Beach when an SUV appeared suddenly in his lane.
Unable to stop, the sailor plowed into the passenger side back door, crumpling to the ground, unconscious.
Stopped in the resulting traffic, Daly saw activity up ahead and jumped out.
The only uniformed people at the scene were some police recruits, none with medical training.
Lovejoy was in a fetal position, not breathing and hanging on for dear life. Daly turned him over, removed his helmet, and noticed broken legs, a collapsed lung and a bloated stomach, a sign of internal bleeding. He administered CPR. Lovejoy began to breathe.
While waiting for help, Daly, covered in blood himself, wet his own hand “to lube up an airway” and encouraged a physical therapist who happened to be nearby to hold Lovejoy’s head up.
The clock was ticking, and Daly, who has treated gunshot victims, opioid addicts and stroke patients that did not survive, feared Mark Lovejoy would not either.
His injuries were extensive. Collapsed lung; broken legs, femur, ribs and wrists; lacerated spleen and ruptured kidney; fractured vertebrae and traumatic brain injury.
Still Lovejoy was alive yet comatose when he reached Virginia Beach General, and still unresponsive two weeks later at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. He finally awoke while being transported in late August to a VA treatment center in Richmond. “Where are we going?” he asked attendants.
it took four months of grueling rehab it turned out, away from his friends, work and his three-year-old son. “I missed so much including his first day in pre-school.”
Maybe it was Mark Lovejoy’s own youth, strength or determination to return home, but he has made it almost all the way back.
There is no more motorcycle in his garage, and he can’t yet resume running, but except for short-term memory loss (and no recollection of the accident or what happened two weeks prior to it), Mark is on his feet and thanking his good fortune for Chris Daly.
“The stars were aligned that day,” says Lovejoy, who grew up in Orlando and the day of the accident, unbeknownst to him at the time, had been notified of his acceptance into the Virginia Beach Police Academy.
Daly, who is the squad commander at Courthouse, says he rarely knows what happens to the people he delivers to the ER’s. “It’s probably my defense mechanism,” he says. But this time, through an acquaintance at his gym, he learned that Mark Lovejoy was home. And when he saw him in December, he was amazed. “I could hardly believe this was the same person who I had treated six months earlier.”
“Chris Daly was obviously the right guy at the right time at this accident scene because of his training, his take charge nature and his dedication to his fellow man,” says Jim Wood, a Virginia Beach Councilman whose wife Rebecca became a paramedic as a result of a traumatic incident involving their nine year old daughter, who is today well and married. “But we have a thousand men and women who either run rescue like Chris each month or provide administrative backup. They do it because they love to serve, not for money or glory.”
As for Mark Lovejoy? He intends to enter that police academy soon, to give back to a community to whom he literally owes his life.
Mark and Chris are still in communication – Mark has met Chris’ family and they have spent time together – now friends as a result of this fateful meeting.