When he needed help, hundreds of people in Shawn Metayer’s life came to his rescue

Shawn Metayer is a 20-year veteran of the Lewiston Fire Department, and a flight nurse and paramedic for LifeFlight on the side.

He waves “hi” to every hospital janitor, volunteers for Lisbon Emergency Ambulance Service and cooks a mean shrimp linguine for the guys at the Sabattus Street fire station.

He’s friendly, outgoing and grateful.

Shawn Metayer nearly died in a motorcycle accident a year ago August.

He broke his collarbones, a shoulder blade and ribs, in 40-plus places. His insides swelled so much from trauma and multiple blood transfusions that they didn’t fit inside anymore.

Doctors kept him chemically sedated for three weeks. So many friends trooped into Central Maine Medical Center, word was he had more visitors than Stephen King.

He left the hospital broken and sore last September, his intestines in a pouch just outside his belly.

While he healed, friends held a benefit spaghetti dinner that brought out Hells Angels and CMMC nursing school staff. Unasked, they raised money for bills. They built a deck on his house and bought him a hot tub to soak his aches.

When they heard he’d run out, city employees donated a year’s worth of sick time.

Shawn will go back to work Thursday to fight fires again, feeling as good as he could hope. (It officially hinges on one last physical Monday that he expects to pass.)

The 47-year-old is optimistic and humble. He’s just not sure how he’s going to thank hundreds of people. Maybe, he said, one hug at a time.

‘I’d seen that look before’

On Aug. 7, 2005, Shawn and his wife, Lori, were wrapping up Stoney’s Lobster Run, a fun motorcycle trek to Boothbay Harbor. After the traditional lobster bake, they stopped at a bar for one beer and headed home.

Lori, also a flight nurse and paramedic, rode behind him on her own motorcycle. (Her license plate: FLYN RN.) By day she’s program coordinator for LifeFlight of Maine in Lewiston.

Shawn said that when he spotted another rider struggling to keep her stopped bike upright, he pulled over and helped her get the kickstand in place. As he set off to catch up with friends, his Harley Road King caught a soft patch of dirt, bucked him over its handlebars into a gully then slammed down on top of him.

Friends heaved the motorcycle off in a snap. Lori rolled her husband over in the dirt.

“In what I do, I’d seen that look on people just before they died,” Lori said.

She cleared his airway and prayed. Lori used her cell phone to call LifeFlight during the ambulance ride to St. Andrews Hospital in Boothbay.

The Lewiston helicopter was tied up in Rumford. One out of Bangor made the trip instead in minutes.

“The nurse that initially came with the helicopter knew Shawn, and that made it very, very difficult,” Lori said.

A trauma doctor who was called at home on his day off beat the helicopter to CMMC. He knew Shawn, too.

Within minutes, he was in surgery to have his spleen removed.

“All I remember, vaguely, in a haze, was people congregating around me and wondering whether it was real or not,” Shawn said. “I don’t remember being in any pain at all.”

Lori spent a month by his side. Shawn woke up, on a ventilator, not realizing he’d been in an accident.

‘He knows everybody’

The well-wishes started right away. Shawn spent 20 years with United Ambulance. His father is retired fire Capt. Buzzy Metayer. He’s the oldest of seven children and has four himself.

His roots in the community go deep.

“It’s amazing how many friends I didn’t know he had. He knows everybody,” said his firehouse supervisor, Lt. Lou Morin. Shawn has this calming effect, he said. “A lot of people care about him. He’s the type of person you want to be around because he makes you feel good.”

When Cathy Case decided to organize the deck project, she got 100 volunteers, “but you can’t have 100 people build a deck,” she said.

Shawn remembers taking his walker over to the window and watching them build. It took him months to move from a walker to a cane to nothing.

He lived with the intestines outside his belly until June, when his skin was stretched back into place and closed up. He’d been uncomfortable and self-conscious living with that big bubble (it’s known as a ventral hernia).

“Every night last winter, I would get in this (hot tub), I would feel weightless and it took all of my pain away,” Shawn said.

His wife would soak next to him and they’d talk. The donation of all that sick time kept her from having to work extra hours to keep up the household.

“We felt really bad about being the object of charity, but it’s unbelievable how much it’s helped us,” he said. “I have some making up to do.”

His second chance

Shawn has chronic pain in his ribs and a long, purple scar on his chest. He never considered not going back to work.

“I’ve missed it unbelievably. I’ve missed all my jobs over the last year,” he said.

He’s back riding a motorcycle, a tough thing to explain. “We have the most fabulous friends in that network,” Lori said.

It’s mostly low-mileage trips for now. His new license plate: 2NDCHNS.

“Knowing what I know now, knowing how close I came then, I have no doubt, my second chance comes because of my wife,” Shawn said.

He has yet to read a journal left by a friend in the CMMC chapel during his stay. Hundreds of people wrote in it, some who probably thought he wouldn’t live to read the entries.

“If we’re ready for a three-hour, four-hour cry, we’re going to open it up,” he said. “That’s a part of the whole saga that’s yet to come. That’ll probably give me another whole perspective. … And appreciate my friends that much more, I’m sure.”

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