Trauma Centers: Targeting the Second Peak: January 4, 2012

When he was 16 years old, Justin Woodbury was involved in a catastrophic car crash.

“I fell asleep or lost control of my car going in excess of one hundred miles an hour and I hydroplaned across the median and hit a van. I was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers and I was in a coma for three and a half, four days.”

At the moment of impact, the clock started ticking on his outcome. Studies show there are three peaks in trauma death rates. The first group of people die immediately, they next peak comes in the first hour, the final peak is weeks later, and is often related to organ failure. Doctors figure they could best affect the second peak, the golden hour.

“If we can get to those patients emergently, get to them before they’ve progressed from severely injured, we can decrease mortality rates from over twenty percent to about a six percent mortality rate,” says Dr. Nelayda Fonte, a trauma surgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.

This is the patient’s first stop when they hit the hospital. The equipment is here, and the emergency staff descends, to quickly evaluate and stabilize their injuries.

“We can actually take a look inside and see if there’s internal hemorrhaging and then determine whether we need to go right up to the operating room or if we have the luxury of getting a little bit more detailed picture,” says Dr. Fonte.

With the clock still running, patients are transitioned into treatment.

“I had a patient this past week that I think we were down here for maybe seven minutes before we had him in the operating room. So we can have exceedingly fast turn around times down here,” says Dr. Fonte.

“My parents were told I may or may not wake up, and that if I woke up the extend of my injury was unknown. I could require twenty-four hour supervision for the rest of my life,” says Justin.

Justin suffered a massive head trauma and was bleeding in his brain. The speed of treatment paid off.

“I was sixteen. Young, skinny kid and I got hurt real bad and you know I’m grown up and I’m able to have a good time with life and live a normal life I think,” says Justin.

Targeting that second peak is often the critical difference between life and death.

“Knowing that someone was dying and that they’re alive today thankfully because of something that we did directly it is extremely gratifying,” says Dr. Fonte.