Fire chief injured in head-on collision thanks doctors who saved - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Fire chief injured in head-on collision thanks doctors who saved his life

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Photo by WRCB reporter Kate Smith. Photo by WRCB reporter Kate Smith.
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Just in time for Thanksgiving, a North Georgia fire chief was able to say ‘thank you’ to the men and women who saved his life.

In January, Walker State Prison Fire Chief Matthew Mann was severely injured in a head-on collision. He wasn't expected to survive. But Tuesday, he thanked the emergency crew that responded that life-changing day.

READ MORE | Walker State Prison Fire Chief recovering from crash

It's been a long ten months, full of ups and downs. But each day one thing pushed Chief Mann. To be able to walk through the hospital doors and thank the medical team who gave him a second chance at life.

The last time Chief Matthew Mann was in the halls of Erlanger, he was on a stretcher, bound for emergency surgery. Tuesday he walked them.

“You just got to get in your mind, hey you're going to hurt. Get out and do stuff,” said Matthew Mann.

This holiday season, he's extra thankful, especially for the Trauma Team at Erlanger. “Grateful for what they do, all the hard work they do and hours they put in, just on one person.”

For the first time, he was able to hug and shake the hands of the doctors and nurses who saved his life.

“He has always been emotionally, and physically, and psychologically tough as nails. To work as hard as he could to have functional joints and get back on his feet. Even back on the golf course,” said Doctor Pete Nowotarski.

Chief Mann has undergone 18 surgeries since January. He spent two weeks in the ICU. Then another two months bedridden at the hospital. Some didn't think he would pull through. “After two to three hours of surgery, multiple, multiple, multiple units of blood transfusion, we got a thumbs up while I was waiting in the surgeons lounge.”

But with hard work and determination, and a loving family by his side, not only did he survive, he healed, proving this holiday isn't just about the food on the Thanksgiving table, it's about the people around it.

“Got to hold my first grandbaby; got to walk my daughter down the aisle," Mann said. "That was a big blessing to me, spending time with friends and family. It's been a long hard road.”

READ MORE | Local jeweler gives injured fire chief a Valentine's Day surprise like no other

Chief Mann will medically retire on December 1. With his extra time, he plans to spend it with family.

The man driving the other vehicle, Bryan Hailstone, was in court Tuesday afternoon.

He pleaded guilty and will serve 15 years in prison.

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