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Local Man Flies High For 50th Birthday

By Staff | Oct 28, 2015

J.D. McAdams waves excitedly from a Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter.

The 50th birthday is a momentous occassion for anyone. However, usually for such a milestone, the person celebrating marks the occassion with a special dinner or party with friends and family. For one local individual though, this special day was marked with a special ride on one of Air Evac Lifeteam’s helicopters.

A 50th birthday for James “J.D.” McAdams was once seen as an improbability. J.D., who has Down Syndrome, was not thought to make it passed age 11, according to brother, Doug McAdams.

Doug said his and J.D.’s parents concluded they would treat J.D. as any other child.

Perhaps this is why J.D. has excelled in life. He has been a hardworking employee of Wetzel County Hospital for the past 31 years. According to his family, he loves to fish, ride bicycles, and is an avid fan of the Magnolia Blue Eagles and West Virginia Mountaineers. Also, he’s a huge fan of helicopters. According to Sister-in-law, Barbara McAdams, J.D. had been on one helicopter ride, which took place in the Smokey Mountains, prior to his flight with Air Evac Lifeteam.

And J.D. is not just an employee of WCH. He’s a dedicated employee. He works 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., three to five days a week, and unlike most of us in the workforce, looks forward to snow days, as it means extra work due to muddy footprints in the hospital’s hallways.

Photo by Lauren Matthews Shown is Julie Gotses, Air Evac Lifeteam; J.D. McAdams; Brett DeGarmo, Air Evac Lifeteam; and Robert Litell, Air Evac Lifeteam.

“J.D. has been with Wetzel County Hospital for the past 31 years in our housekeeping and laundry department,” Supervisor Joe Eggleston said. “He is a valued employee and very dedicated to his job. Wetzel County Hospital would not be the same without JD because he is a huge asset to our facility.”

Chief Executive Officer Brian Felici agreed, saying that J.D. has been a “model employee of Wetzel County Hospital since 1983.”

“As a member of our housekeeping staff, his main role is to maintain the cleanliness of our main hallways in addition to other areas of the hospital,” Felici added. “I truly believe that upon entering our hospital patients and visitors notice the cleanliness of our hospital and especially the main corridors. This a direct result of J.D.’s commitment to making certain that is the case.”

It is not just J.D.’s superiors who sing his praises either. J.D. was surrounded Oct. 22, the scheduled day of his helicopter ride, by various co-workers who are grateful to have him as a fellow WCH employee. One of those co-workers is Clarice Baker, member of Wileyville Volunteer Fire Department and fellow employee of WCH’s housekeeping staff. Baker was actually the employee who thought of, and thus researched and pursued, J.D.’s helicopter ride. Baker compares J.D. to being “like a little brother to me.”

Other employees who stood by to watch the ride, popped outside of the hospital briefly with well wishes, and generally celebrated his 50th birthday with J.D. included Chris Anderson, Roxanna Root, Courtney West, Jeff Mead, Barbara Loy, Kim Smith, Regina Blake, Monica Brisendine, Heidi Steele, Robin Pittman, Ryan Singer, Eggleston, and Felici.

McAdams is shown with his best friend, Dr. Hany Tadros.

J.D. sported a special T-shirt, created by Hatfield’s Custom Graphics, which featured a photo of himself and Dr. Hany Tadros, his best friend. J.D. had hoped to ride in the helicopter with Tadros; however, due to paperwork issues and Tadros’ very busy schedule, the duo was not able to ride together.

J.D. took this disappointment in stride. His helicopter ride, scheduled for Oct. 22, was postponed due to Air Evac Lifeteam being needed for an emergency. J.D. was not upset or angry. He bidded his friends goodbye until the next day, also giving plenty of hugs as he likes, and is known, to do.

The next day J.D.’s helicopter ride time was pushed forward a time or two, due to emergencies. J.D.’s supporters stood nervously, hoping that J.D. would not have to wait yet another day, or over the weekend, for his birthday gift.

The helicopter eventually returned to base, and J.D.’s friends and family celebrated as Base Pilot Supervisor Brett DeGarmo gave the “okay” for the ride, inviting J.D.’s supporters to the helicopter for photos prior to the ride.

There were very few dry eyes in the parking lot as the helicopter took off, J.D. waving out the window at his family. There were fewer dry eyes upon his return to the base and subsequent exit from the helicopter. When asked his thoughts of the ride, J.D., all smiles, simply said “I loved it” before giving hugs to his friends and family.