When Baltimore firefighter Nick Eid came upon a vehicle crash in Hampstead, he didn’t stop to think whether he was on duty — he reacted, and in doing so, gave a 17-year-old boy a second chance at life.
Dylan Brown was on his way to breakfast when he lost control of his black Ford Escape on Gross Mill Road at about 9:30 a.m. on April 18, his mother Stacey Brown said. The driver’s side hit a tree, and the sound of that impact caught the ear of Eid, who was at a house up the road preparing to clean windows for his wife’s business, Perfectly Maid.
Thoughts racing, Eid slammed the doors of his truck shut and peeled out of the driveway toward the sound.
He found an unconscious young man, face tilted down, in the driver’s seat of a crumpled vehicle.
“He was probably only breathing one or two times a minute, taking like very agonal, snoring respirations,” Eid said.
Following his basic emergency medical technician training procedures, Eid checked to make sure there was no obvious spinal fracture before repositioning the stranger’s neck. Eid tilted his head back and, within a few seconds, he began breathing normally, Eid said.
Eid pulled his cellphone — but he had no service. He whistled loudly for help, but when it didn’t come fast enough, Eid said he ran about 150 feet up the road until he found one bar of service.
Unfamiliar with the area, Eid searched for a house number or a landmark to describe to the 911 operator, and as he turned, he saw another threat to the young man’s life.
“I turned around and realized his car was actually on fire. There were flames and smoke coming out from the engine compartment area,” Eid said.
Eid sprinted back to his truck, where he keeps a fire extinguisher for camping trips, and doused the flames. Adrenaline pumping, Eid stayed by Dylan’s side until the Hampstead and Manchester volunteer fire companies arrived. They cut the vehicle apart to get him out safely, according to Eid.
He never saw another vehicle pass through the area. Stacey Brown said the road is lightly traveled.
Hampstead police and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office were also on the scene.
The foggy, overcast weather made it impossible for a helicopter to fly, so an ambulance rushed Dylan to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
His injuries were severe.
“When I saw him go into the ambulance, I thought that was going to be it,” Eid said.
Not one to seek recognition, Eid drifted into the background after the scene was cleared. A friend of his, who works for the Baltimore City Fire Department and also volunteers at the Manchester fire company, told him of the website where family and friends posted updates of Dylan’s condition at caringbridge.org.
Dylan Brown initially suffered brain swelling and bleeding, one completely blocked carotid artery, one partially blocked carotid artery, damage to his heart valve, partial lung damage, a lacerated liver, a shattered kneecap, a broken elbow, and a broken shin, according to an April 19 post on his CaringBridge page. His right lung collapsed and required a stent, according to his mother.
He was put into a medically induced coma. After several days, eventually — gradually — he was brought out.
The situation was all too familiar for his mother.
“When he was born, he was the biggest and the sickest baby in the [neonatal intensive care unit]. He was on full ventilator support, doing no breathing on his own as this newborn baby … and here he is about to turn 18 and I’m seeing him in the exact same position,” she recalled.
Dylan turned 18 while he was still in the hospital.
Eid silently read recovery updates online for three weeks, hoping his efforts had made a difference. He never told the family who he was or what he’d done — until Dylan’s mother showed up at his front door.
Part of the family
“Without Nick, my son would not be here right now,” Stacey Brown said.
The police helped Brown connect with Eid, whom she was determined to find.
“I didn’t know his name yet, but I knew that he had saved his life, and so I was on a mission to find him,” she said.
Standing at the front door to Eid’s Hampstead home May 14, Brown hesitated a moment, considering a “Beware of dogs” sign. She decided to leave a note at the door, but her shaking hands prevented her from writing. So she knocked.
Not expecting company, Eid said he took a moment to settle his dogs before opening the door.
“You know how they say like, the eyes are the window to the soul?” Brown said in an interview. “As a mom, I can’t even describe … I cannot even describe in words what that was like,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.
Facing the man who saved her son’s life, words spilled out of her mouth as she tried to tell Eid who she was. He embraced her.
“He changed the trajectory of my family,” Brown said.
Dylan has an older sister, Katelynn, 22, and two younger siblings, Aydan, 16, and Eastyn, 5.
And now, Eid and his wife Jill are considered part of the family.
“I have no intentions of just letting them go quietly into the night,” Stacey Brown said with a smile.
Eid took a break from cleaning the Brown family’s windows June 18, assisting his wife’s cleaning business, to share his story with the Carroll County Times.
As Eid humbly retold the events of the day, Brown lauded his heroism.
“I didn’t need the recognition,” he said. “She’s really doing everything she can to embarrass me,” Eid said jokingly.
“If more people were like Nick, the world would be a much better place,” she said.
People pass by car crashes every day, Brown said, and Eid could have easily done the same.
Dylan met his rescuer Monday, June 17, a few days after he was released from the hospital. Eid told him his side of the story, then the two got to know each other better, discovering their shared love of cars.
In that moment, Stacey Brown and her husband Mike “saw a shift” in Dylan.
“It’s like he got the big brother he never had,” Stacey Brown said. “I feel like out of something so, so painful, something really incredible’s happened,” she said.
Eid, 32, plans to stay connected with his new extended family. He hopes to take Dylan camping and off-roading, but there’s a long path to recovery before adventures can ensue.
Dylan was in and out of the hospital several times after the crash for follow-up procedures.
He most recently returned home June 13.
“He is not out of the woods yet,” Stacey Brown said.
The injury to his right lung required a stent — but it is only temporary. He might have to undergo major surgery to resolve the issue, according to his mother.
“Right now, the plan is to get his body strong enough to then have this surgery,” she said.
The family travels back and forth to the Shock Trauma Center several times a week. Dylan is undergoing occupational and physical therapy at home, his mother said.
Despite the struggles ahead, the Brown family knows they can count on the community to lift them up.
‘Stay Strong Dylan’
Passing through the Manchester Valley High School community, you’re likely to encounter someone wearing a navy-blue bracelet with words emblazoned in yellow, “Stay Strong Dylan.”
Dylan graduated early from Manchester Valley in January, where he left an impact as a member of the football team and as a friend.
One of his former classmates, Halle Schroeder, designed bracelets to help the family with expenses, family friend Tracy Bowman said. Bracelets were sold along with prom tickets at school and people continue to buy them, Stacey Brown said.
In the first sale, people bought about 600 bracelets, which Bowman described as “amazing.”
The high school sold pinwheels for people to write messages on and place in front of the school, Brown said.
“This hometown has blown my mind with the outpouring of love,” she said.
Friends created pages on GoFundMe to give the family financial support and on Meal Train to organize meal deliveries. They’ve received donations from hundreds of people, many of them strangers — some as far away as California — Brown said.
Dutch Corner restaurant, where Dylan worked, sold mugs and has a collection jar for the family, his mother said.
“It just shows how close-knit and how caring the community is,” Bowman said.
Eid began fighting fires in his home state of Vermont when he was 16 years old. He grew up watching his father Tom serve as a volunteer firefighter. That created a growing interest in firefighting for him.
In his hunt for colleges, Eid found the fire protection engineering major at the University of Maryland, College Park. He lived in the Berwyn Heights Volunteer Fire Department while he was a student and sent a few applications to fire houses.
After his freshman year, Eid got a call from Baltimore City Fire Department — “always where I wanted to go” — and took the job in 2007.
He has spent most of his career at Engine Company 8, where he is now a pump operator.
Eid doesn’t have to fight fires in his current role, but years of experience allowed him to react as quickly as he did April 18.
“I love my job,” Eid said.
The thought that he was off duty never crossed his mind that day, he said.
“I just knew that one of my fellow humans needed help and I was in the position to truly make a difference,” Eid said.
Whatever lies ahead for her family, Stacey Brown believes their lives are better because of Eid. She said it’s impossible to repay him.
Eid’s only request is for Dylan to take advantage of his second chance.
“The way I want you to thank me,” Eid said, “Is by doing something positive with this.”