Michael’s Army

Published 10:01 am Thursday, August 3, 2017

AHOSKIE – Pizza Inn of Ahoskie is typically busy on any given night of the week as customers crave the popular menu items on an all-you-can-eat buffet.

But Monday night’s crowd was a bit different. Sure, they enjoyed the satisfaction of consuming those lip-smacking cheesy triangles of pizza dough covered with an assortment of meats and veggies. However, they were seated for another reason….an effort to raise funds and support Michael Barnes.

Barnes, a Paramedic with Northampton County EMS, was involved in an auto accident in the early morning hours of July 23 while responding to a call.

Northampton County EMS Paramedic Michael Barnes is recovering in the hospital after receiving serious injuries in a July 23 wreck while he was en route to a call. | Facebook Photo

Despite serious injuries suffered in the accident. Barnes, age 35, is expected to make a full recovery. He remains as a patient at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville where he has been hospitalized since the mishap. To date he has undergone multiple surgeries to repair broken bones and to deal with blood clots and other injuries.

On Monday night in Ahoskie, Barnes was on the hearts and minds of those taking part in a dinner from where Pizza Inn owner Ed Copeland donated a portion of the evening’s sales and all tips to the Northampton Paramedic. A 50-50 raffle was also held, with proceeds helping Barnes.

The fundraiser was the brainchild of Bertie County EMS Paramedic Shannon Williams, who partners with Barnes when he works with that organization. Barnes also works with Bertie Ambulance Service, and teaches future Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) at Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

“We wanted to bring our EMS community together, as well as any one else that knows and loves Michael, under one roof to support our friend and co-worker in his time of need,” said Williams, adding that Allyson Meeks, Barnes’ former partner when they both worked at Hertford County EMS, helped orchestrate Monday’s event. “We have EMS personnel with us tonight from Bertie County, Hertford County, Northampton County, and even from Dare County.

“We’re so appreciative of all those who came out to support Michael,” Williams added. “We need to thank Ed Copeland and his staff here. We also thank Gene Mitchell of the Roxobel Volunteer Fire Department for donating the big EMS banner, which was used for those wanting to share a special (written) message with Michael.”

Other fundraisers are also in the works. Williams said she is currently accepting orders for Krispy Kreme doughnuts through Aug. 6 with all proceeds benefitting Barnes. Contact her at 252-588-0014 or on Facebook (Shannon Williams) to place an order.

Additionally, Meeks said the Velvin family – who worked with Barnes at Bertie EMS – are offering EMS “Star of Life” decals for $5. All money will help Barnes on his road to recovery. To place an order, visit Jessica Hassell Velvin’s Facebook page.

“We are thinking about some other types of fundraisers at this point, but haven’t ironed out all the details at this moment,” noted Williams.

Barnes’ mother, Shirley Garris of Conway, attended Monday’s fundraiser.

Allyson Meeks fills a pitcher of water to serve Pizza Inn customers attending the Barnes fundraiser.

“Michael was born on my 19th birthday. Sept. 29…what a great birthday present. He was my first child; he’s still my baby,” she smiled, adding that she has two other sons. “He’s a hard working young man. He’s a great son, husband, father and brother. All of my boys are hard workers.”

Garris stressed that she believes her son landed a job that he takes pride in working.

“He loves helping other people. It was meant for him to become an EMT and now a Paramedic,” Garris stated.

Turning emotional as she talked about her son’s accident, Garris said, “He’ll make it through. They’ve (Vidant surgeons) have been able to repair the breaks to both legs.”

No date has been determined as to when Barnes will be able to leave Vidant Medical Center.

“Once that happens, there’ll be a long period of recovery at home and with physical therapy,” said the mom. “It’s going to take him a while, but he’ll be back. We’re thinking it will be at least one year (of recovery time).”

Garris said it’s a safe bet that her son has his laptop with him in his hospital room.

“I guarantee he’s studying how to become better at what he does, even though he’s now the patient and not the medical provider,” she remarked. “But that’s Michael, he never wants to stop learning; he never stops trying to become the best Paramedic.”

On the morning of the accident, Barnes was responding to what was initially reported as a shooting victim. According to the NC Highway Patrol Trooper that investigated the accident, the crash occurred after Barnes struck some trees after going through the stop sign at the intersection of Dusty Hill Road and NC 35 near Potecasi.

It was later learned, at the hospital, that Barnes suffered a medical emergency of his own that attributed to the accident.

Williams stated that she first met Barnes upon moving to the Roanoke-Chowan area in 2010.

“We were both working then with Hertford County EMS,” she recalled. “We were classmates together at RCCC when we worked to obtain our Paramedic level certification.”

Williams stated that Michael’s wife, Nikki, was once an EMT. She is now a nurse at Vidant Beaufort County Hospital in Washington, where the couple resides with their daughter, Cassidy Barnes. They also have another daughter, Kayla Hudgins.

“Michael is one of the best Paramedics I know,” said Williams, as tears filled her eyes. “All of his bosses will tell you the same thing. He’s dedicated to great patient care. He’s touched so many lives.”

Williams said when an EMT rookie joins the staff, Barnes is among the first of the veterans to step up and offer advice.

“He never stops teaching,” she said. “He’s a hands-on type of person; he wants to see others succeed in this line of work, just as he has. He’s a great guy to work with.

“He stays on top of the latest techniques and training,” Williams continued. “He’s always posting something on Facebook where he will share what he’s reading and learning. I’m pretty sure he’s bossing his nurses around in the hospital, telling them what to do and how to do it.”

Williams added that Barnes was part of an EMS group to represent Northampton County at a national convention in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. There was a competition held among the EMTs while there.

“They were in the top three in the nation….from little old Northampton County,” she smiled.

Another person close to Michael’s heart, his stepmother Penny Barnes, took some time out on Monday from waiting tables at Pizza Inn to talk about the child she helped raise since the age of nine.

“He’s a good-hearted soul; very level headed,” she said. “His father (George) and I are so proud of the man he’s become. Just look at the crowd here tonight and you can easily see how much Michael is loved.

“We see our kids as good, valuable people in society, but the most comforting and uplifting thing as a parent to see is when other people see your children the same way,” Mrs. Barnes added. “People see the value of Michael; they see his passion and compassion for the job he does.”

What she witnessed on Monday night was a brand new appreciation of her stepson.

“I’ve talked to people who worked alongside Michael and they shared stories of how he helped them advance their careers in the EMS field,” Barnes stated. “There was another person who had posted a comment on a news story about his accident who shared that Michael had saved her son’s life after responding to a 911 call. There apparently have been many people whose lives have been touched by Michael. But he’s just doing what he loves to do.

“I really feel this entire ordeal will make Michael an even better Paramedic in the long run because he’s now seeing things from the other side of a hospital bed,” she closed, while reaching for a cluster of empty plates and cups to take to the kitchen.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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