Tennessee

30 Years Later: Johnson City man reunites with EMTs who saved his life

He was an abandoned newborn wrapped in newspaper

30 Years Later: Man reunites with EMTs who saved his life

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - A Columbia, Tennessee man born in Johnson City says he wouldn't be alive today without the help of two emergency responders. That's why, almost 31 years later, he drove hours to say "thank you."

It all started at 3am on June 24, 1984. Washington County/Johnson City emergency responders Randy Anderson and Richard Donoho boarded an ambulance, responding to a bleeding woman at a home on Brandonwood Drive.

She was taken to Johnson City Medical Center, and doctors discovered there was more to her condition. "Doc comes out and wants to know if we saw a kid because the girl that we brought in just had a delivery," Anderson says.

So the two headed back to the house and looked everywhere for a baby. "I remember in the basement there was a dirt floor garage," Anderson says.

There, in a drawer, was an abandoned newborn wrapped in newspaper. "Just a little hamster in a cage. You pull the paper back and the kid wasn't crying. It just seemed happy," Anderson says.

It was a gut-wrenching rescue that shocked Anderson and Donoho, who are now retired. "Mom with something as precious as a baby, you know a new life, and just to tuck them away in a drawer and then go get treatment for herself," Anderson says.

The Mother was charged with attempted murder, but didn't go to jail. The baby, Rhett Lashley, was adopted by his grandparents.

But it wasn't until he turned 20 that he learned about his birth mother and about how he came into the world. "It just opened up so many more questions that I felt needed to be answered just for the sake of peace of mind," Lashley says.

Now 30 years old, Lashley walks through the EMS building in Johnson City, about to do something he's always dreamed of: meeting the two men who saved his life.

Lashley himself became an emergency responder, just like the people that made sure he could live. "My life goal to be that person that people could come to when you know something happens or when it's their emergency," Lashley says.

Saving others always reminded Lashley of the two men that saved him, and now he, Anderson and Donoho, who were bonded by a lifesaving experience 30 years ago, have a new bond - this time as brothers in arms. "Last time I saw him he was that big covered in newspaper and now he's grown EMT firefighter. Just makes you proud," Anderson.

And all three now have closure. "Some calls you just don't forget. And you never know what happens. So I wanted at least give that to them let them know, 'Hey I'm doing fine, I'm doing okay. Thank you," Lashley says.

It's a new memory for each other that will last forever. "I'm just so proud that I can meet him now and see, you know, 30 years later," Anderson says.

Right now, Lashley is going through paramedic school and working to become a certified fire investigator.


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