In Memory

Avril Doucette (Rush)

Dr. Avril Brickley Doucette Rush (1948-2001)

Dr. Avril Doucette Rush, 53, formerly of Pampa, died Sunday, Nov.4, 2001 in Arlington. She was born February 26, 1948, in Pampa, Texas. Dr. Rush attended Pampa High School where she was an accomplished National Science Fair Winner. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in medical technology and microbiology. In the course of her studies she met Michael Rush and they were married on Jan.17, 1970.

They had two daughters and eventually settled in Arlington. She went back to school at the University of Texas at Arlington to fulfill her pre-med requirements. While raising two young daughters, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a medical doctor and graduated in the top 10 percent of her class from Southwestern Medical School in 1984.

She practiced medicine in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a board certified family practitioner and volunteered her services with Arlington Night Shelter and Mission Arlington as a care giver for the homeless.

She was proceeded in death by her father, Albert Perry Doucette in 1994.

Survivors include her husband; two daughters, Kellie Rush-Frie and husband Ross of Austin and Tracie Rush of Fort Worth; her mother, Mary Doucette; a brother, John Doucette and wife Phyllis of Amarillo; a niece, Laura Ann of Amarillo; a nephew, Mark Lefors of Amarillo; three grandchildren, Michael Edward and Lauren Nicole, both of Austin, and Blake Ryan of Fort Worth.

NOTE: In August, 1985, the READER'S DIGEST had an article about Avril, "Struck by Lightning!" in its Drama in Real Life section written by Peter Michelmore.

I got the copy of the article from READER'S DIGEST and just posted below.. Avril, who was 2 months short of graduating from medical school was living in Arlington, Texas at the time. She was at a soccer league game when one of the players was struck by lightning. Through Avril's quick wit, she and another woman, Linda Casagrande who was an x-ray technologist, provided medical assistance until the paramedics arrived. It is an awesome story about two remarkable and talented women. Scroll down and read this article. Pam Ludeman Price

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04/22/15 09:44 PM #1    

Pam Ludeman (Price)

05/31/15 06:54 PM #2    

Pam Ludeman (Price)

In August 1985, the READERS' DIGEST posted this story about Avril Doucette Rush's experience in helping a young man survive after he was struck by lightning. I contacted READERS' DIGEST and the company's representative I talked with searched the magazine's archives and sent the story to me. It is awesome reading ... so, enjoy!


Readers’ Digest Drama in Real Life

By Peter Michelmore | Illustration: April Lawton

PRETEEN SOCCER-LEAGUE GAME had just entered the third quarter on Field 13 at the Arlington, Texas, sports complex. It was April 7, 1984, and the score was 3 to 3 as the Rockets advanced toward The Force's territory.

Under darkening cloud, The Force's defensive sweep, Nicky "The Foot" Schneider, it, moved up to intercept the ball. Linda Casagrande, mother of one of the Rock­ets, craned forward to see the action. Just then the clouds burst and rain started pelting down. Nicky, un­deterred, scrambled toward mid-­field, looking for his chance to regain the ball for his team.

One field over, the referee blew his whistle to end a girls' game. Parents scurried for their children. Avril Rush gathered her daughter and her daughter's friend and, dashing for the car, crossed the back of Field 13.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning streaked out of the rain directly in front of them. Avril watched it snake down toward Nicky. It seemed to hover for an instant. Then, with a crack of thunder, the lightning darted at the boy's head.

Awe-struck, Avril saw the boy awash in a brilliant flash of blue-white light, a black silhouette in a luminous glow. The next moment, he was rocketing 12 feet into the air, back arched, head thrown back, arms and legs flexed in the paralyz­ing shock of electrocution. At the same time, Avril and the girls were hit by an invisible wall of air that knocked them backward into the mud and grass.

On the sideline of Field 13, Lin­da Casagrande, momentarily blinded by the flash of lightning, was aware of people screaming. Then she saw the boy fall to the ground not 5o feet away.

Running to the crumpled figure, Linda dropped to his side and turned him over. His body was rigid. Wisps of smoke came from his mouth and ears. An ugly welt on his scalp showed where the lightning had struck. Burn marks along his left side traced the bolt's scorching path to the ground. The tops of both shoes had been blown apart.

Linda felt for a pulse at his neck; there was none.

"He's dead!" Bonnie Schneider countered a case of a direct light­ning strike to the head, and could offer Bonnie no reassurances. The electric current from the bolt could have been as high as 200,000 amps; the heat upward of 15,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because Nicky was rain-soaked at the time of the strike, neurosur­geon Lowell Stanley concluded that the film of water on his body may have conducted the main force of current to the ground. Second-degree burns covered one-eighth of the boy's body, and his lungs were inflamed and congested. But the main concern was his brain. A CAT scan showed swelling around a blood clot deep inside Nicky's brain, in the area that controls mo­tor function. Doctors reasoned that some cells would have been killed in the damaged areas, others knocked dormant. Their strategy was to buy time for whatever self-healing was possible.

Nurses treated Nicky's burns, and continually monitored the res­pirator to achieve a rich oxygen mix at a high enough pressure to com­pensate for the flooded, weakened lungs and to get a strong blood flow to the brain.

Bonnie talked to her son con­stantly, day and night, and played tapes of his favorite music. "Let him wake up," she prayed. "I'll take him any way he is."

Increasingly, he tossed about and pulled at his covers, fighting to come back. Slowly, the clot dis­solved and the swelling lessened; the lungs cleared. On the seventh day, he weakly raised fingers on his right hand at Stanley's command. Briefly, his eyes flickered open.

Five days later, Nicky was fully awake. But when he tried to speak, his whispered sounds were a gar­ble. The orange juice he tried to sip dribbled clown his chin. He was as helpless as a baby.

In the days that followed, thera­pists tried to help Nicky enunciate vowel sounds and simple words, but he had suffered a partial hear­ing loss. They moved his arms and legs so he could relearn how to sit up and lie down and bring a spoon to his mouth. His right limbs lacked coordination. His left side was stiff.

"Will he ever walk again?" Bon­nie asked.

"He could," one doctor replied, but his tone was not encouraging.

Three weeks after the accident Nicky was transferred to the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation. It was evident to the doctors that someone had done a superb job of resuscita­tion at the scene. The boy's brain showed none of the dulling effects of oxygen starvation.

For four hours each day he was exercised. With a therapist holding his heels, Nicky rolled belly-down on a huge beach ball to help regain his sense of balance. With aides supporting him, he went through the motions of walking. His speech became more precise, and he was soon able to eat and drink without slavering.

"We attempted to stimulate the sensory and motor areas of Nicky's brain," explains Dr. William Parker, the institute's medical di­rector. "The aim was to attune backup cells to compensate for dead or damaged cells."

For Nicky, it was an ordeal by pain. Pressure on his foot injuries and the forced movement of rigid muscles had him screaming and thrashing. "I don't want to get better," he wailed. "It hurts too much."

But as his physical coordination improved, his tantrums lessened. He began to see each advance as a victory—sitting upright without wavering, putting on a shirt by him. "Even if it hurts," he now said, "I want to get better."

The third week of therapy, he was taken to a soccer picnic in Arlington - a wan, wasted figure weighing only 60 pounds. Parents and children applauded as he moved among them in a wheelchair.

Permitted to go home for the next weekend, Nicky struggled about the house on all fours or with the aid of a metal walker. On Sun­day afternoon, before he returned to the hospital, Bonnie carried her son to the bathroom and told him to call when ready.

Hoisting himself to his feet by the towel rail, Nicky pressed one hand against the wall for support. "Walk by yourself or you never will," he told himself. Around the doorway he came, then through the hall, one tortured step after another. At the living room, he saw his mother.

Nicky let go of the wall and tottered toward her outstretched arms. They hugged and cried for a long time.

Early on Monday at the hospital, Nicky put on three pairs of socks to cushion his tender feet and wobbled into Parker's office. "Now can I stay home?" the boy asked.

That week Nicky would not ac­cept a single helping hand as he went through his exercises, and when it was over Parker dis­charged him. "No one expected such rapid recovery," the doctor says. "This was a kid with spunk."

Bonnie measured Nicky's tri­umphs on a wall calendar: June 12 - Ran across the living room. June 14 - Rode his bike. June 26 - Tied his own shoelaces.

In September, with two hearing aids, a stiff left arm and dragging his left foot, Nicky returned to school. Though promoted to the sixth grade, he lagged in some sub­jects and his writing was labored. Valiantly, he tested his skills on the soccer field, only to find that his deeply scarred right foot hurt too much to kick the ball.

But month after month, he kept pushing. By January, his weight up to 73 pounds, he was stepping more lightly. He could now detect the faint ticking of a clock without hearing aids. He got an A in mathe­matics. And he began team training in soccer by late winter.

Within a year of being struck by lightning, Nicky had achieved the seemingly impossible. "He's not a miracle," says Bonnie. "He's a se­ries of miracles."

06/01/15 11:24 AM #3    

Denise Terrell (Heavner)

That story brought tears to my eyes--very inspiring.

Avril was obviously a very smart girl at PHS.  It's wonderful to see what she accomplished in her adult life.  She obviously had a good heart too--donating her time to help disadvantaged people.


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