Chris Trokey was only 3.2 pounds when he was born in 1986. His Southern California hospital's medical staff estimated that his chances of long-term life were 50/50. That simply wasn't adequate for one of those doctors. The pediatrician had no way of knowing that his tireless efforts to rescue Trokey's life were an investment in his own long-term survival.
Chris Trokey, who later trained as a paramedic, rescued Dr. Michael Shannon from a flaming car after a serious accident almost thirty years ago to the day that Chris Trokey had been saved by Shannon.
Shannon had been a pediatrician for about ten years at the time Trokey was born. He spent a lot of his childhood visiting doctors since he had illnesses like asthma, a hernia, and appendicitis, which led him to become a doctor and start his business in 1973.
“I spent a lot of time in the doctor's office. I figured that would be a decent thing to do because my parents appeared to enjoy him," he recounted in a retirement interview with the Children's Hospital of Orange County. He jokingly said that he went into pediatrics because "kids don't judge you and their charts were incredibly tiny."
Shannon was hit head-on by a semitruck on March 29, 2011, when he was traveling down the Pacific Coast Highway close to Dana Point in Southern California. Shannon's car was stuck below the large truck and rapidly caught fire. Shannon could only make out a flash of white and the sound of breaking glass.
Firefighters and paramedics from Orange County's Engine 29 arrived on the scene in under two minutes. They came across a flaming, damaged wreck. Although the fire wasn't out of control, firefighters were aware that the car may explode at any moment.
Shannon was trapped inside the car as the fire started to burn his legs, but he was unable to flee the accident. Shannon was unable to free himself despite being aware of his severe injuries. He maintained his composure as the temperature inside the SUV rose and informed the rescue team of his location.
Chris Trokey, a paramedic with the Orange County Fire Authority, was present that day. Trokey, who had been an EMT for eight years at that point, was nearing the conclusion of his shift. Despite having worked all night, the Engine 29 crew was fortunate to be in the truck and prepared to respond when the call came in.
Shannon saw that the soles of his shoes were fusing with his skin while the fire truck team battled the car fire. He signaled the team that he needed the hose while they used the Jaws of Life to release him. They delivered it to him, and the doctor extinguished the car's flames after receiving it. They were still putting out the engine fire outside the vehicle. Twenty minutes later, they rescued Shannon and sent him to Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach, which is close by.
Trokey called the hospital in advance to alert the trauma team at the emergency department. He reported the patient's name, and something in his recollection was triggered. He questioned whether the physician who had stayed up with him throughout his early days on earth to ensure he lived for the next 30 years was the same one in the SUV.
The future paramedic was born 10 weeks early in June 1981. Baby Chris weighed 3.2 pounds and was small enough to fit in Shannon's palm. He and his mother had to be transported 25 miles away, from Mission Hospital to the medical center at the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of California Irvine.
The Trokeys were eventually allowed to leave the hospital, but their medical issues lingered on for quite some time. Chris the baby developed an unusual fever just a few weeks after birth and was taken back to the hospital. Dr. Shannon remained with the infant until all was well. Trokey's pediatrician up till the time he was a teenager was Shannon.
Chris Trokey started to remember the man in the back of the ambulance more clearly as he cared for Shannon while the ambulance sped to the hospital.
Shannon suffered a ruptured gut, foot burns of the second and third degree, and glass fragments lodged all over his body. Two of his toes had to be removed, and it took him 45 days to heal from his wounds. The day following the life-saving procedure, the men of Engine 29 went to the doctor.
On the anniversary of the vehicle accident, when a paramedic returned the favor for the doctor who saved his life, Trokey and Shannon now get together once a year. Porter Trokey, Trokey's son, was born in 2015, and Shannon cared for him for two years before leaving the profession in 2017.