WASHINGTON - In the days after D.C. rookie firefighter Dane Smothers Jr. was critically injured in an accident at the scene of a house fire, there were fears he would not survive. The 28-year-old had numerous broken bones and there were real concerns he would never walk again.
But after nearly three months in the hospital, Smothers is not only walking, but he said he wants to go back to work.
Back on August 2, Smothers was responding to his first working fire. He was critically injured after being crushed between the engine he was working on and a ladder truck responding to a fire on the Northeast side of Capitol Hill.
His injuries were so severe that they briefly stopped his heart and sent him into shock.
"I just want to thank everyone, especially the staff and the nurses and doctors who helped save my life, members of the firefighting family here in D.C. and worldwide," said Smothers.
He was so badly hurt that doctors said on Wednesday that his life hung in the balance for days.
"Mr. Smothers had many severe organ injuries, bleeding vessels and broken bones throughout his body," said Dr. Jack Sava, the Director of Trauma at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. "During the first 48 hours in the intensive care unit, the ICU team worked minute to minute to try to keep him alive throughout the night."
Dozens of firefighters and hospital workers came to see for themselves on this day what some thought was the improbable - Smothers walking on his own.
"Life was not easy for him when he first came here, but he really progressed much more quickly than any of us could have expected," said Dr. Erika Gosai of MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital.
D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean said the firefighting family pulls together at times like these and he hopes to see Smothers back on the job one day.
"There is a lot of behind the scene players that have been extremely helpful, but again, I think we are motivated by this young man and his strength that we are seeing on a daily basis," said Dean.
"I have never really been scared away from a challenge," said Smothers. "I'm not scared to run into a burning building. Still not scared, still not afraid of a challenge, so I definitely would like to return to the house. That's my family. In my short time at the firehouse, I have grown to love them and they have grown to love me."