The Washington Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department has begun a fundraising effort for one of its own, Gary Jenkins Jr., a 19-year-old volunteer who sustained serious injuries when his truck skidded off the road as he responded to a late-night ambulance call on July 12.
Jenkins suffered injuries to his spine when his vehicle skidded into a tree; after his fellow volunteers from Washington, Sperryville and Amissville worked for the better part of an hour to free him from the wreckage, he was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery the following night.
“As we understand it,” said WVFR’s EMT captain, Russ Collins, “there’s certainly reason to hope he’s going to regain a large part of the function of his legs. But that will rely on long-term therapy.”
Collins and Washington Fire Chief Ann Spieker said Tuesday that the insurance policy maintained by Rappahannock County to cover its all-volunteer emergency responders and their equipment will pay only up to $150,000 of medical costs for Jenkins, who was preparing this week to begin a month of rehabilitation at Inova’s Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria.
“That isn’t very much in today’s world,” said Collins, who estimated that Jenkins’ recovery could take a year or more, “particularly when somebody’s got a spinal injury.”
Spieker said the company’s members decided this week to sponsor the effort to raise funds to help Jenkins “rebuild his life” — including funds for medical and physical therapy treatments, alterations to his home and vehicle to allow him to get around, and possibly to continue his education.
“This is what he has chosen to do, to help people,” said Collins. “If he isn’t able to be an EMT, he could certainly be a nurse, and we should help with that.”
The company asks that anyone who wishes to donate send a check to WVFR at 10 Firehouse Lane, Washington, VA 22747, with “Gary Jenkins” in the memo field — or call the fire hall at 540-675-3615. An online-donation option is in the works, Collins said.
“I see this as an opportunity,” Collins added, “to get our county to come together, to help change a tragedy into an opportunity, to give a guy hope. Gary was undergoing training to become a paramedic [he had already achieved the initial EMT-I certification], to help people in the county, and now he’s going to have to rebuild his life, and we hope the county can give him some help.”
Asked if the county’s coverage was adequate for its emergency responders, all of whom are still volunteers, Rappahannock County Administrator Debbie Keyser said Wednesday that the policy had “certainly been used over the years for payouts, and always was adequate — but this is quite an extraordinary circumstance. We’ll have to take another look at it.”
Jenkins’ is the first serious line-of-duty injury in more than 30 years to a fire or rescue volunteer in Rappahannock County, according to several sources.