Terry Buschert – A Lifesaving Donor

by Tom Rademacher, Veteran Grand Rapids Press columnist and long-time Michigan Blood donor

For reasons Terry Buschert believes only God might be able to explain, he took a different way home the evening of Thursday, April 3. And as Robert Frost’s poem about the road not taken aptly goes, it’s entirely likely “that has made all the difference,” at least in the life of a young man from Gowen, Michigan.

Michigan Blood might never have known about the heroic efforts of Buschert, had they not contacted him about donating the day after a near-fatal single vehicle accident that nearly claimed the life of the 21-year-old driver.

Buschert was responding to a request to donate platelets, and during his phone call with a supervisor, learned that because he’d been so intimately involved with rescue efforts the night before, he would have to put donating on hold for a year.

His saga began that early April evening, when Buschert agreed to help his daughter, Lindsea, 16, during a fundraiser at Lincoln Lake Baptist Camp in Gowen, about 30 miles northeast of the Buschert home in Comstock Park.

“Normally, to get home, I would head down Lincoln Lake to M-57,” Buschert recalls, “but that evening, traffic was a little heavy, and I decided to turn (west) on 18 Mile Road.”

Several minutes later, just west of Meddler Avenue NE in Kent County’s Spencer Township, Buschert came upon stopped traffic in the road – traffic he would not have encountered had he taken his usual route.

What he saw sent chills coursing through his 51-year-old body. It was a Jeep, “very badly mangled,” so much so that he instructed Lindsea to “sit tight” while he went to explore.

Buschert encountered two other passersby who had arrived there earlier, and in conversation, learned both had been there “maybe 5 minutes” but neither had done anything to assess the condition of the Jeep’s driver. Paramedics had not yet arrived.

Said one of the men to Buschert: “I ain’t lookin’ in there. Whoever’s in there’s probably dead.” Buschert himself wasn’t eager to draw closer. “People who know me know that I black out at the sight of blood.”

Indeed, when it came time for him to dress out the first whitetail he’d ever harvested, Buschert went unconscious in the field. The same has held true during first-aid training, which is more than ironic, since Buschert serves as safety director for Architectural Metals Inc., or AMI, in Portland. Still, Buschert felt compelled to investigate, and pressed others into service as well.

Training the flashlight of his mobile phone into the Jeep’s interior, he discovered a lot of blood, but no one in the driver’s seat. Both airbags had been deployed. Fearing someone had been ejected, he told one of the other men, “You go around that way, and I’ll go the other.”

In rounding the rear of the Jeep, Buschert saw a foot hanging upside down from near the vehicle’s ceiling, and the man’s body suspended out the back end. He wasn’t moving.

Drawing close, Buschert put two fingers to the man’s neck to check for a pulse. It was enough to roust the man, who came to and started screaming, “Help me! Help me!”

“It scared the daylights right out of me,” said Buschert, who then began efforts to untangle the man from his vehicle. “His pants were shredded, and I felt an open gash on his head. There was a lot of bleeding. I scooped him up under his armpits and told two guys there to help me get him down.”

Meanwhile, more passersby were arriving, and some were using their mobile phones to take photos. Buschert wondered aloud if anyone had used their phone to call 911.

Eventually, a woman with formal medical training arrived, and she helped Buschert put pressure on the injured man’s open wounds. “My arms were covered in blood,” Buschert recalls.

More rescue personnel arrived, and Buschert remembers helping to stabilize the driver while he was transferred to a backboard. Once stabilized, paramedics turned their attention to Buschert, wiping the injured man’s blood from his rescuer’s body.

“I was well aware of blood-borne pathogens,” says Buschert, “but his life was more precious to me at that point.”

That next morning, Buschert answered a plea from Michigan Blood for platelets, and that’s when he shared the events of the night before. As is standard procedure for anyone exposed to another’s blood, he was informed of the year-long hiatus.

“I was kind of disappointed, but if a few more minutes had gone by, who knows if he would be alive,” says Buschert. “I just hoped and prayed at the time that someone else was giving blood, so that that man received what he needed.”

Looking back, Buschert says that evening’s episode has brought him even closer to his faith, a walk he began some 16 years ago, when he became a Christian. Though he typically draws his spiritual strength from Calvary Church of Grand Rapids, instances like the one on 18 Mile Road also help demonstrate how God wants to use him as an instrument.

“I think the Lord’s prepared me and is continuing to use me,” says Buschert, who after the accident changed his favorite Bible verses to Philippians 2:3 and 2:4, where we’re encouraged to imitate Christ’s humility, “not looking to your own interests but…to the interests of others.”

Buschert sees the same lessons inherent in giving to Michigan Blood, where others depend on the rest of us for sustenance, for their very lives.

“Michigan Blood depends on volunteer donors,” says Buschert. “It’s one of the many ways we can help, and contribute to a world greater than ourselves.”