RICHMOND, Virginia – Helping to save lives is a part of what Tasharnda Gainey does every day for the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. But her willingness to assist a stranger even during her off-hours earned her a heroism award.
Gainey stopped to help a pedestrian struck by a car on July 24, when she came upon the scene of the crash on Jefferson Davis Highway in Chesterfield. “I have a medical background. If I see somebody in need, I have to stop,” said Gainey, an emergency communications officer with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications since 2008.
Because of her willingness to render aid, even when not on the job, the department presented Gainey with its first Heroism Award on Aug. 12. “Tasharnda’s actions exemplify our employees’ passion for helping others, both on-duty and off-duty,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the department.
On the evening of July 24, Gainey picked up her 2-year-old twins from the babysitter. Back home in North Chesterfield, her 17-year-old daughter said she wanted Popeyes. Even though other Popeyes locations are closer, Gainey headed toward Chester. “I cut around, and it was an extremely long way. I just could not think how to get there,” said Gainey, a resident of North Chesterfield for 22 years. “I drove all around and told the kids, ‘I guess we’re taking a ride today’.”
After passing Willis Road on Jefferson Davis Highway, she saw a truck pulled sideways and a sedan.
“I could see someone lying in the road,” she said. “I could kind of see him from the side, and I yelled to my daughter, ‘Turn your head, don’t look’.”
Getting out of her car, Gainey was surprised that no one was helping the victim, even though others were nearby. “My God, there’s nobody here,” she thought. “I heard no sirens, nothing. That freaked me out more than his condition.”
She called 911 in Chesterfield and reported a pedestrian struck in the southbound lane of the 9400 block of Jefferson Davis Highway. “Step it up; he’s in bad shape,” she told them. His chest was not moving, and she checked for a pulse. As the 911 call-taker prepared to give her instructions on how to start chest compressions, Gainey told her she already was doing them. A former emergency medical technician with the Bensley-Bermuda Rescue Squad in Chesterfield and trained in CPR as a dispatcher, Gainey continued the compressions, keeping time to the beat of “Staying Alive,” she said, and counting aloud to the 911 call-taker.
Later, another bystander offered to help, but she continued until Fire and EMS personnel arrived and took over. Unfortunately, the victim did not survive.
Back in the car, her daughter had called Gainey’s mother, telling her, “Mommy’s doing CPR by the side of the road.” Surprised, her mother asked her, “So you stopped again?” In 2002, Gainey had stopped to help at the scene of a crash near the intersection of interstates 295 and 64 in Henrico County. She ended up being summoned to testify as a state witness in a court case in which a person was convicted of vehicular manslaughter.
“I stopped this time because I didn’t see anybody helping him,” she said. “Somebody needed help. That drew me in. I couldn’t just drive by. I wouldn’t be OK with it.”
I was just trying to go to Popeyes. We still didn’t get any – the line was massively long,” Gainey said. And when her daughter complained later, she told her, “You’ll be fine without that Popeyes chicken sandwich.” Describing her difficulty in finding her way to the Chester restaurant, Gainey’s mother told her, “You know how to get around. That was weird.” And both her mother and babysitter told her, “You were meant to go that way.”