Nearly a decade after a workplace accident dramatically changed the life of Anthony Lue, the 29-year-old had a chance to shake the hands of the paramedics who came to his rescue.

Lue was working as a mechanic for a Pickering car repair shop in September of 2009 when he was crushed by a scrap yard crane while dropping off an inoperable car.

He broke his back, fractured his neck and ribs, and suffered serious spinal cord damage.

Still conscious, Lue said he knew his injuries were serious when he heard someone request a helicopter.

“It got a little bit blurry at that point but I remember going up in the chopper and trying to take a peek out the window because I had never been in a helicopter before, flying over the city,” Lue said with a laugh.

“Thank God the paramedics were there to tell me to stop moving because the severity of my injuries… I had a fracture at the bottom of my neck, so a centimetre or an inch more, I would’ve broken my neck and done a lot more damage to my spinal cord.”

David Dasti, then a paramedic with ORNGE air ambulance, remembers the day clearly.

“It was the kind of call that sticks with you,” he said. “I remember hearing the call dispatch information and thinking, ‘Wow this is going to be terrible.”

Dasti said they landed the helicopter in a nearby parking lot. By the time they got to the crushed vehicle, Durham paramedics and firefighters were already working to extricate Lue from the wreckage.

Chris Warner was one of the first paramedics on the scene. The advanced care paramedic remembers crawling into the vehicle to reach Lue, who immediately started to tell him his symptoms.

“He was amazing. He was calm, cool, collected right from the get-go,” Warner said.

“I was blown away by his character right from the start.”

Nine years later, Lue’s character is unchanged. As is his gratitude toward Dasti, Warner and all those involved in saving his life.

The trio met on Thursday at the ORNGE Air Ambulance hangar to do more than remember the fateful day that left Lue in a wheelchair. The first responders wanted to see how far he’s come.

Now an athlete, a spokesperson for People in Motion and accessibility advocate, Lue has accomplished a lot since the accident.

Currently, he’s determined to represent Canada in handcycling at the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan.

“I’m just trying to keep myself busy and not really let the injury define me,” Lue said. “It’s just one of those things… we’re all going to go through things in our lives but it’s how you bounce back that really determines who you are.”

Dasti said it’s not very often those working in emergency services have the opportunity to catch up with patients they’ve helped, but has never forgotten his day with Lue.

“When you hear that call dispatch information and you see what happened to the car you wonder how he survived that,” he said.

“If you, you can call it a miracle or at least incredible good fortune.”