Rebounding After Tragedy
by Velvet Hanser and Jeff Hoelsher
Liliane Elrod's eyes tear up as she watches her son streak across the basketball court. Vince darts around his opponent's legs, shoes squeaking, basketball thumping the hard wood, then he jumps and sinks a layup shot with a swoosh.
|Vince Elrod and his mother,Liliane Elrod
"I am amazed at how quickly he has healed," Liliane said.
Only four months ago, Liliane learned the devastating prognosis: Her son had less than a five percent chance of survival as a result of multiple life-threatening injuries.
"When Vincent arrived at our trauma center, he was being given CPR as they took him off the helicopter," said trauma surgeon Stephen Barnes, MD. "He was near death due to a liver injury and ongoing bleeding that required emergency surgery, both of his lungs were collapsed, and his aorta had been cut in half. But patients like Vincent are the reason we are here and do what we do."
On the morning of March 18, the Atlanta, Mo., teen was on his way to Columbia with his best friend to watch a state high School basketball playoff game. The two crossed Highway 63 to pick up another friend on their way to the tournament. Perhaps the boys didn't see the oncoming vehicle due to a slight dip in the road - no one really knows for sure - but their car pulled out onto the road in front of it.
Vincent's best friend did not survive the accident. Near death himself, Vince was flown by helicopter to University Hospital's Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD, Trauma Center.
His list of injuries included seven broken ribs, a broken sternum, a severely fractured pelvis and a traumatic brain injury.
Vince's lifesaving treatment began by paramedics en route to the hospital and continued at University Hospital's Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD, Trauma Center.
In July 2011, the trauma center received a three-year re-verification by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) as a Level I trauma center, the highest national recognition a trauma center can receive. University Hospital's trauma center is one of only three Level I trauma centers in Missouri verified by the ACS' Committee on Trauma.
"University of Missouri Health Care and the entire staff at University Hospital have made a significant commitment to provide patients with the highest level of trauma care at a moment's notice," said James Kessel, MD, medical director of University Hospital's trauma center. "We are proud to be recognized among the elite trauma centers in the country who have achieved Level I status, and we are proud of the life-saving care we provide to residents of Missouri."
The verification means that University Hospital is equipped around-the-clock for the most serious types of injuries in patients of all ages - injuries like those of 16-year old Vince. He underwent six operations, including minimally invasive aortic, thoracic and pelvic reconstructive surgery. The trauma team used a leading-edge resuscitation protocol born on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to help control Vince's bleeding. In all, he received 70 units of transfused blood. He spent three weeks in University Hospital's surgical intensive care unit (SICU).
"This kid is amazing," Barnes said. "He is why we have Level I trauma centers. With these types of severe injuries there is a need to engage several surgeons from various departments to treat the patient."
Carol Nierling, RN, MSN, trauma program manager, said the hospital is ready 24-7 for Level I trauma patients. Reporting to University Hospital's Emergency Room for every Level I trauma are surgeons who specialize in trauma, neurosurgery and orthopaedics, emergency medicine physicians, anesthesiologists and nurses.
"The more critically injured you are, the more important time is," Nierling said. "Being a Level I trauma center is not one, two or even three people. It's an entire team trained to respond quickly and all working together. We couldn't be a trauma center without the people in radiology, the O.R., the blood bank, anesthesiology, emergency room, nursing, CT or the pre-hospital people like paramedics."
"One of the really neat things is when you see all of these people coming together and a patient like Vincent has a great outcome," Nierling said. "There were so many opportunities for Vincent to not do well - he had so many severe injuries - but everyone came together, knew their roles and performed their roles well."
In April, Vince left University Hospital and spent more than two weeks undergoing occupational, speech and physical rehabilitation at Rusk Rehabilitation Center.
Jane Ann Emerson, MD, a physician and assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, oversaw Vince's rehabilitation at Rusk.
"We had an excellent team working with Vince to help him recover, but Vince worked really hard himself," Emerson said.
Vince was discharged home with a walker at the end of April. He finished his sophomore year of high school in Atlanta, Mo. By July, he had ditched his walker and was back to playing basketball with his friends. Besides a slight scar on his forehead, Liliane said she notices no difference in her son between now and before the accident. He has returned to his quiet and athletic self.
"I feel good," he said. "I've very thankful." Now a junior in high school, Vince will return to his high school's Hornets basketball team in the upcoming season. He plans to attend college, but he's not sure which college or what field he wants to pursue.
"I tell him he needs to decide," Liliane chides. "But all he ever wants to do is play basketball. That's all he and his friends ever do or talk about. Basketball, basketball, basketball."
But, Liliane admits, she is so thankful to have him back in the game.