By: Mary Kathryn Kight
OCH Regional Medical Center Staff Urologist Kenneth Thomas, MD, uses his medical expertise on a daily basis, but he didn't expect to attract world wide media attention after coming to a woman's rescue at the PGA Golf Tournament in South Carolina last week.
Last Friday, Thomas stood on the right side of the seventh fairway with his wife and son when he heard people shouting, "It's coming this way!" That's when Thomas saw the golf ball, hit by pro-golfer Adam Scott, strike a woman in the head. "I actually heard the ball hit her and saw her go down to the ground," said Dr. Thomas. "I could tell she needed immediate attention, and I quickly assessed her. She was conscious and seemed stable and coherent. I introduced myself to her and told her I was a doctor. She had a scalp laceration that was bleeding quite profusely. I immediately began applying heavy direct pressure to the area."
The female golf fan, Jean Otter of Bethesda, Maryland, described Dr. Thomas as an angel who came out of the blue. "It was truly amazing to me that this man would help a complete stranger. To me, that shows his commitment to medicine and compassion towards patients," said Otter. "While he was taking care of me, it started pouring down rain, and he said, I'm going to stay here with you until the paramedics arrive. I knew he wasn't going to leave me, and that helped me remain calm."
As Dr. Thomas treated Otter, Scott walked over and knelt down beside her to apologize for what happened and later promised to send her flowers. "I told Adam Scott, it's fine as long as you at least get a birdie," said Otter. "I remember laying there thinking, 'What more could I ask for? I have this wonderful doctor, my husband and Adam Scott kneeling over me!'"
It didn't take long for media all over the world to pick up the story. The incident grabbed the attention of media outlets such as Golf Digest and even stretched as far as the New York Times to the Sydney Morning Hearld in Australia. Now, Thomas is being hailed a hero. As the golf channel reports, "Luckily enough, a doctor was standing right next to the woman and immediately began treating her until on-site medics arrived."
Otter has quickly recovered and is back to work where she is a division director at the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). She attributes her rapid recovery to Dr. Thomas. "He didn't have any supplies or equipment, just his own two hands, so I feel very very grateful for the time he took to help me," said Otter.
Dr. Thomas pointed out the importance of becoming CPR certified and educated on first aid steps to help out in emergency situations. "If no one held pressure to the area that was bleeding, and it continued at the same pace, she probably would have lost 1/4 or 1/5 of her total blood volume. That amount of blood loss would take quite a while to recover; not to mention she likely would've had a large hematoma, a blood collection under the skin."
The state of South Carolina and many other states, including Mississippi, have a Good Samaritan law, which protects medically trained personnel from undue liability during good faith rescue attempts, as long as the person stays within his scope of training. Dr. Thomas said with or without the law, he wouldn't hesitate to help someone. "I didn't question going to help Mrs. Otter. I knew it was the right thing to do, and I'm glad I was there."