Gustavo and Maria Cuevas of Monroe, Oregon have three sons: Alan, Angel and Victor . They live on the 800-acre ranch where Gustavo works, and last July 29 was pretty much an average day…until it wasn’t.
“The kids were on summer vacation,” says Gustavo. “I was trying to keep them busy instead of letting them watch TV all day.”
Alan chimes in. “We were just having an average day. Since we live on a farm, we always ask my dad if he needs any help. He didn’t that day, so Angel and I drove around on an ATV near where he was working.”
“I had just looked up to check on them 10 or 15 seconds before,” Gustavo says, “and then I heard someone screaming.”
I’ll never forget that they decided to stay. I’m so grateful.
Gustavo Cuevas, Alan’s father
Alan provides details. “Angel was steering, and there was a big rock or something that made the handlebars turn to the right and caused the ATV to roll. The ATV and I were both rolling, and it hit me in the stomach while I was in midair. When I tried to get up afterwards, I couldn’t get past my knees. My abdomen was really hurting, kind of a burning, stinging pain.”
“I got there as fast as I could,” says Gustavo. “Alan was trying to stand up but he couldn’t. He said that his stomach was hurting.”
Gustavo called Maria, who came and held Alan while her husband was on the phone with 911. “I told them what happened and that I was afraid the paramedics wouldn’t find us since we were out in the middle of an 800-acre ranch. They said to send someone to the highway, but that I couldn’t go, because I needed to stay on the phone with them.” Maria went, even though she was extremely reluctant to leave her son’s side. “Alan was getting worse every minute,” Gustavo explains. “His face was white, his lips were dry, he was getting cold…his eyes even started to roll back once.”
“When the paramedics came,” Alan shares, “I blacked out for a while, but I could still hear and feel everything they were doing. They were checking my vitals, and they said my blood pressure was going down. I was so cold. They put the electric blanket on me and said they would call for a helicopter.”
Piloted by Bryan Bowen, the REACH helicopter arrived quickly, carrying Flight Nurse Joey Van Winckel and Flight Paramedic Eric Schmidt.
“Alan is such a wonderful little boy,” says Joey. “He was able to tell us what happened, which was really helpful.” She adds, “Gustavo and Maria raised some good kids. Alan kept asking about Angel, and Angel was worried about Alan.” (Angel did not sustain any serious injuries.)
“I was dizzy and woozy. I had tunnel vision,” says Alan. “During the flight, the crew was really great. They kept asking how I was doing. And I kept asking if they knew anything about my little brother.”
Alan was transported to the nearest hospital, Sacred Heart in River Bend. The REACH crew stayed with him. “We stuck around at the hospital because we knew something was wrong,” says Joey, “most likely his liver.”
They were right. Alan’s liver was split nearly in half.
Says Gustavo, “I’ll never forget that they decided to stay. I’m so grateful. When I got to Sacred Heart, the first thing Alan said was, ‘Tell my brother it wasn’t his fault. Everything is going to be okay.’ Later, we talked as a family and we decided that no one was going to be mad at anybody, that it was an accident.”
“When my dad told me that Angel was fine, I was really happy,” says Alan. “From the outside, he looked like he had more injuries than me, because he had lots of scrapes and bruises.”
Due to the seriousness of his liver injury, REACH transported Alan to Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. “He also injured one of his lungs,” Gustavo reports. “He lost a lot of weight. He couldn’t eat or drink for two weeks. The doctors wanted to avoid surgery, because the liver heals itself.”
“I just stayed at the hospital and recovered,” Alan says. “It felt really good when they said I didn’t need surgery.”
Joey remembers, “I think he was the most bummed out that he couldn’t participate in sports for a while, but he also looked at us and said, ‘Yeah, but I’m alive.’”
Alan agrees. “I do basketball every year. I was pretty sad when they said I wasn’t going to be able to do sports or anything for a while, but they cleared me just in time for basketball season! I’m doing good now. I’m fully recovered. No more problems.”
The Cuevas family had the opportunity to reunite with the REACH flight crew. “They came to a picnic that the Monroe and Alpine Fire Department do every year,” says Gustavo. “They came in the helicopter to meet us. We took pictures, and we were on the news.”
Alan adds, “I really liked that I was able to say thanks to the crew for the amazing job they did. They did an extraordinary job, not just of taking care of me, but also just of being there.”