Three trauma survivors bared their souls to celebrate the Southeast Trauma Care Region (SETCR) early years of success through recalling their individual “Alpha” injury experience, initial assessment and transport, and, finally, recovery.
They emotionally told their unique but similar stories to more than 50 participants in
SETCR’s May 18 Trauma Town Hall Meeting in Hattiesburg.
SETCR President William C. Oliver welcomed trauma system supporters, directors and staff, and employees of AAA Ambulance Service; ASAP; Covington County, Forrest General, Jefferson Davis Community, and Marion General Hospitals; and South Central Regional Medical Center. Representatives of Jones Junior College, University of Southern Mississippi, Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department, and the Mississippi State Department of Health and other community residents also attended.
The survivors – Martha Stevens, MD, Duncan Hatten, and Deanna Richardson – prompted Oliver, also president of Forrest General Hospital and Mississippi Hospital Association, to say that they exemplify the Trauma Region’s reason for existence: to save lives through getting trauma victims to the right hospital in the right amount of time.
Each survivor recalled the dilemmas that put them into the traumatic spotlight:
• “I am blessed to be here,” said Deanna Richardson of Hattiesburg. “August 12, 2004, changed my life. You can never understand trauma until it happens to you or somebody near and dear to you.
“I was an innocent bystander when an argument between two people turned into a shooting, and I got shot,” Ms. Richardson said. “I was holding on, praying, and calling my children’s names . . . I could have died but for Dr. McGee and the trauma team – they’re the best.”
• “Three things saved my life,” declared Dr. Martha Stevens of Student Health, University of Southern Mississippi. “My prayers to God, my wearing a seat belt, and the trauma system saved me.”
Weary from work and a long football-filled weekend, on October 11, 2004, Dr. Stevens apparently slipped off to sleep at the wheel, and the vehicle she was driving flipped twice and landed rubber-side-up. With the thud of landing, she realized she hung upside down with her chest compressed, her right knee in the seat belt with her, and her left arm and leg hurt but in some unknown place. Unable to unlock the seatbelt, get to her purse, or reach her cell phone and becoming increasingly claustrophobic, she “kept saying the Lord’s Prayer – that’s the only scripture I could remember right then.
“Finally, I heard somebody asking if I were OK,” she remembered. “He talked, reassuring me, and – at the same time – I heard them talking about bringing the Jaws Of Life and the possibility of amputating my leg. Getting me out took an hour. Then I heard the Rescue 7 helicopter and Jeremy Thornhill’s voice. That was really important to me because I’ve know him for a lifetime. When they got me to the emergency room at Forrest General, I heard other voices I recognized . . .
“The trauma care system made all the difference in my life; I have a quality of life because their actions meant amputation below the knee instead of above and because they were able to save my arm – it’s not normal, but I still have it. “
• Stone County Board of Supervisors President Duncan Hatten of Wiggins, who owns and works in his construction business, took a mis-step, fell, and air-gunned two 3 ¼-inch nails into his chest on July 17, 2003.
“I’ve tried to live in a manner pleasing to my fellowman and to God,” he began. “Now Isaiah 41:10 means more to me than ever before: ‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yeah, I will help thee. . .’”
Hatten detailed the series of mis-haps that plugged one nail half-way through his heart and the other directly into his breastbone. A nearby worker heard his cry for help and found him crouching painfully on hands and knees.
“I would not lie down, not even on the board they brought,” he said, “because I could see the nails in my chest, my shirt sucked into the bone. I told Mark what to tell my wife and kids and after about a minute-and-a-half, I lost consciousness and rolled over onto the board.
“Now this happened way out in the country, on a very hot day in July,” Hatten said. “In Stone County, we have an excellent Volunteer Fire Department with EMT’s and we have AAA Ambulance Service. We’re fortunate. I missed it all until we got to Forrest General, but thank God they didn’t pull those nails out!
“They told me later that when we got to the hospital, I had no blood pressure and they couldn’t hear a heart beat. But Rescue 7 was waiting at Stone County Hospital when the AAA Ambulance got me there, and we landed at Forrest General in about eight minutes. . .
“I finally regained consciousness and – I enjoy life; most of the time something comical can go on during the worst of times. I came to for a few brief seconds, and the first person I saw there in the ER was Michael Lott, a longtime good friend. The only problem is that he’s the coroner from Stone County! Now when you’re in the ER and the coroner is looking down at you, that’s not good!
“And I’ve never been so thirsty,” he recalled. “In the Western movies, the thirstiest cowboy on the screen is the one who dies. I recognized one of the nurses in the ER and told her I had to have something to drink, but she told me I couldn’t have anything; that’s when I knew again that I was going to die!
“Now,” he asked, “do you know what a trauma system means to me? A trauma system means Life. The people who transported me and those who treated me and my family – they were concerned, caring, and they continue still today to check on me.
“Tonight – hearing the Trauma Region experts talk, I learned I am an Alpha survivor – that’s just about as serious as an injury can get,” he mentioned.
“Both personally and as a Supervisor, it means a lot to me and to our citizens to know we can get hurt and that we have people trained to take care of us,” he added. “Since the Southeast Trauma Care Region started, if you can get to the right hospital alive and in the right time, you’ve got a chance. I hope Stone County is never without AAA Ambulance, Rescue 7, and the Trauma Region.”
After their testimonials, SETCR President Oliver recognized other members of the Region Board of Directors, Region Chief Executive Officer Wade N. Spruill, Jr., and the trauma care team.
Whenever a trauma injury occurs, dozens of care-givers become active in the response, treatment, care, and rehabilitation, Oliver said.
He credited first responders – usually, fire rescue, law enforcement, and/or bystanders; emergency medical services (EMS) dispatch; EMS ground and/or air service workers, including EMT-Basics and EMT-Paramedics; for the air ambulance, a pilot and flight medic; the hospital’s emergency department (ED) physician; acute care nurse practitioner; ED staff nurse; ED patient care coordinator; social worker; respiratory therapist; lab technician; radiology, CT Scanner, and MRI technicians; radiologist; operating room nurse and technicians; intensive care unit nurse; SDU nurse; floor nurse; utilization management nurse (for placement); nursing supervisor; anesthesiologist; trauma surgeon/general surgeon; trauma medical director; orthopedic surgeon; neurosurgeon; environmental services/housekeeping; dietary services employees, rehabilitation personnel; the business office; and, certainly not least, the chaplaincy. .
The list includes almost everybody within every organization that “touches” a trauma victim.
Oliver particularly thanked the survivors for sharing their stories and meeting participants for helping celebrate Southeast Trauma Care Region.
About AAA Ambulance Service: AAA Ambulance Service, founded in 1965, created one of the first licensed emergency medical services providers in Mississippi. The community, tax-supported nonprofit organization’s mission is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce trauma-related personal anguish and health care costs. For more information, visit http://www.aaaambulance.net.
Contact: Christy M. Joy
PO Box 17889
Hattiesburg, MS 39404
207 South. 28th Ave.
Hattiesburg, MS 39401
(601) 264-0175 SND.Email