Will Long

June 24, 2022
Will Long
Will Long

Fast roadside response, good bedside manner

A guy running across U.S. Highway 24 in Park County caught the attention of Will Long as he was driving home to Colorado Springs from Lake City, where he’d been chopping wood so his mother and sister would be warm in the winter.

Long slowed down, saw a mangled three-wheel motorcycle and two people lying in the field. There was no way Long, an experienced trauma nurse, was not going to stop.

“An elderly gentleman was moaning, but he was coherent enough and he was asking questions. He didn’t know where he was; he didn’t remember anything, but he was talking, so I thought, ‘He is ok at the moment.’ So my attention went to his wife. … As soon as I saw her, I was like, ‘Oh, this isn’t looking good.’’’

Long found the woman nonresponsive. She had a shallow pulse, then no pulse, and he began CPR, continuing for 30 minutes until paramedics arrived. All the while, he asked the man, who had complained of back pain, to lie still. A short time after paramedics arrived, the woman died.

Long turned his focus to the man, helping first responders strap him to a board, load him on to a stretcher and push up a slight hill toward a waiting ambulance.

“How’s my wife doing?’’ the man asked.

“I’m sorry, sir, your wife died,’’ Long told him. After working 5.5 years in a Level I Trauma center in San Antonio, Texas, he learned that sharing direct, compassionate and truthful information in crisis situations is often best.

As paramedics loaded the man into the helicopter, Long asked: “Where you taking him?’’

When Long heard the helicopter was going to UCHealth’s Level I Trauma Center at Memorial Hospital Central, Long, who was then working on an orthopedic floor at Memorial, thought: “He’ll probably end up on my floor.’’

Sure enough, when Long went to work a few days later, the man he had helped on the highway was there. Long went into the man’s room and introduced himself.

“He vaguely remembered me, and I kind of told him everything that had happened and I told him I wanted to check in on him and see how he was doing,’’ Long said. Slowly, the man started to piece together what had happened that early November day near U.S. Highway 285 and Highway 24.

In the hospital room, the man thanked Long for his help on the two-lane highway, and for being direct with him about the death of his wife. The man also asked Long about the conditions on the road that November day, and Long told him the wind was so strong that it blew his truck around. Long said he believes the wind pushed the motorcycle off the road and once off the road, the motorcycle flipped.

Long became a nurse, he said, “to help people.’’ It’s that simple.

That day in November, out on a two-lane road in the middle of nowhere, there was no way Long was not going to stop to help. It’s just what he does.

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About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.