The firefighters stood behind a crowd whose eyes were riveted on the Tarmac, where John Harrison Doucet’s father pulled his son from a small plane and sat him in a wheelchair.
Applause filled the waiting room when Dawson Harrison wheeled his big brother through the doors. John Harrison smiled quietly and tried to take it all in.
Of all people, the firefighters understood this welcome-home celebration was a miracle, or close to it. The 20-year-old sailor survived a severe electrical shock Sept. 18 from overhead power lines outside the Gulfport Yacht Club.
Engineer Andrew Dedeaux and Lt. Charles Head, both of the Gulfport Fire Department, were first on the scene. They had been dispatched to check on a car fire. Instead, they found John Harrison burning. He had been parking his sailboat when a line from the mast came into contact with the power lines.
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“It’s something you never want to see again,” Dedeaux said. “It really threw us for a loop.
“ . . . This is one call that sat on me a long time. I thought about him a lot as the days went on. This is definitely a shock to us to see him come home, that he survived it.
“We’ve seen people die from a lot less.”
John Harrison was near death several times before and after he was flown to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia. His mother said the community’s prayers and support meant more than the family can say.
Visits from his brothers, Dawson and Louis, and stepsisters, Lainey and Chloe Aschenbach, always lifted his spirits.
His mother and father, Ruthie McMullen and Tommy Doucet, never left Augusta. Stepmother Katie Achenbach-Doucet and other family members also flew up for visits and kept life moving at home.
John Harrison’s father drove back to Gulfport for the first time Monday night, while McMullen flew home with John Harrison. Volunteer pilots with Angel Flight Soars have flown a total of 40 trips with the family.
John Harrison’s ordeal is not over. He lost his legs and right arm during his fight to survive. After a brief respite, he will return to the Still Burn Center to be fitted with prosthetics.
What he wants to do more than anything while he is home is get back on the water. He loves boats. He loves to sail.
“He’s tough,” his dad said. “He’s strong. He’s young.”
“ . . . It’s been a journey. This day’s huge because everybody can have a sense of normalcy to a certain extent. I never lost faith, but there were days when we were worried. We kept hope. And here we are.”
Angel Flight Soars
Angel Flight Soars is a nonprofit organization that arranges free flights for medical treatment, surgeries and clinical programs. Pilots volunteer their services and planes. The service is available for medically stable, ambulatory patients living in, or traveling to or through, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.