Former sheriff Alan Jordan on the mend after near-fatal accident

Published 6:07 pm Saturday, October 3, 2015

VAIL STEWART RUMLEY | DAILY NEWS AT HOME: Former Beaufort County Sheriff Alan Jordan at home with his wife, Tina. On Aug. 9, Jordan was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident that resulted in the loss of his left leg above the knee.

AT HOME: Former Beaufort County Sheriff Alan Jordan at home with his wife, Tina. On Aug. 9, Jordan was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident that resulted in the loss of his left leg above the knee.

On Aug. 9, the call came into 911, reporting a collision between a Ford F-350 truck and a motorcycle at the intersection of N.C. Highway 33 and the southbound ramp of U.S. Highway 17 in Chocowinity. At the time the call was made, a paramedic was already sprinting toward the scene from the Chocowinity EMS station just down the road; another was right behind with the ambulance — they’d heard the accident.

The quick response meant the difference between life and death. Because of it, former Beaufort County Sheriff Alan Jordan is lucky to be alive.

“I truly believe if the accident hadn’t happened right there, I would have died,” Jordan said. “This was one of the keys to my survival, because not only did it happen in front of the Chocowinity EMS station, but that they were so capable and so proficient in their response. They knew what to do, and they did it expertly, and that’s what saved my life.”

The accident happened at 7:30 p.m. Jordan was traveling east on N.C. 33; the driver of the Ford, John Williams, from Kinston, was heading west, turning onto the southbound ramp of U.S. 17. The two collided in the intersection — Tina Jordan believes a toe hook on the front of the truck is what took off her husband’s leg below the knee.

From there, events unfolded quickly, according to the Jordans. Williams, also an EMT, was out of his truck and assessing the situation. Telecommunicator and EMT Crystal Mariner, who had worked under Jordan during his tenure as sheriff, took the 911 call. She didn’t wait to alert Vidant East Care — a helicopter was immediately on its way. Chocowinity EMS paramedics Wendy Chandler and Becky Heath, assisted by Mike Stox and Josh Cutler, applied the tourniquet that would ultimately save Jordan’s life, according to Vidant trauma doctors.

During this, a still alert Jordan had one request of his former deputies who had raced to the scene: get Tina; tell her what happened.

From Greenville to the accident scene in Chocowinity and back again, the East Care helicopter’s total flight time was an astounding 19 minutes. In the second half of the trip, Jordan coded and was revived three times due to the amount of blood he’d lost. At Vidant Medical Center, he went into surgery immediately.

Jordan doesn’t remember any of it. He refers to Tina when discussing the details of the accident.

“I remember going riding that day,” he said. “I remember, just vaguely, being in Chocowinity. … I don’t remember the truck. I don’t remember anything about the accident at all.”

Williams said at the time of the accident that he didn’t see Jordan until the moment before he hit him.

“The first time I woke up and realized I was even alive, I was intubated,” Jordan said.

Though he could hear people talking in his room, he couldn’t communicate, but he began assessing the situation — wiggling his fingers and toes, realizing then that his left leg had been amputated.

“At that time, I really didn’t know what happened. I just surmised I was in a motorcycle accident,” Jordan said.

Over the next 44 days, Jordan went through 15 surgeries and rehabilitation before he was released from the hospital in Greenville. His leg was ultimately amputated above the knee because of the level of trauma to the bones and muscles surrounding the joint, and a plate inserted to fix his broken left hip. A fractured vertebrae in his cervical spine didn’t require surgery, but does require Jordan to wear a neck brace.

Now, settled back at home in Washington, the Jordans said they are grateful for many things: that a small town like Washington has a trauma facility so close by; the excellent care they received at Vidant Medical Center; for Chocowinity EMS, an agency that pushed county officials to allow them to provide paramedic-level service; and the outpouring of support from so many people in the community.

“We’re just thankful that he’s here to go through this,” Tina Jordan said.

Jordan said he’s especially grateful for the response from Beaufort County Sheriff Ernie Coleman and the sheriff’s office.

“Every day we got a call from the sheriff’s office asking, ‘What can we do for you?’” Jordan said. “I can’t say enough about the support from the sheriff’s office, and that comes from the top down.”

And Jordan remains grateful for the many years he spent riding motorcycles, though that chapter of his life is now closed. It was more than a hobby that started when he was boy — as an adult, it was an outlet, an opportunity for down time and an escape from the demands of life and law enforcement.

“You know, I really was passionate about motorcycles, not just riding on them but working on them,” Jordan said. “From 1968 to the accident, I had a great time doing it. I wouldn’t go back and change that.”

Jordan knew the dangers inherent to motorcycles, however. Before the accident, he said when someone would ask him where he went riding, he’d joke that he always rode toward a trauma center, rather than away from one. He also never scrimped on his gear. Every bit of it was top of line, which Jordan believes is another factor that saved his life. His helmet, which he hasn’t seen and doesn’t know if he wants to see, absorbed the impact and split down the middle — exactly as it was meant to do. As bad as the accident was, he suffered no head trauma, he said.

Many would view the loss of a leg as debilitating — not so, Jordan. In the same way he approached working out at the gym prior to the accident, he’s thrown himself into physical therapy and regaining full mobility of his residual limb. When he’s fitted with a prosthesis in a couple of weeks, he’ll be prepared to walk without assistance.

It may not be how he and Tina envisioned life after his retirement from a 30-year career in law enforcement, 16 of which he served as sheriff of Beaufort County, but that’s not going to hold them back, he said.

“I cannot wait to get my leg,” Jordan said. “I’m just looking forward — I want to get my leg and get on with life.”