Teamwork Saves Teen after Traumatic Accident
It was a Saturday, still a few weeks from the start of the new school year, so 16-year-old Marco Island resident Eli Smith decided to go out on his Jet Ski. Twenty minutes later, his mom, Lorrie, received a call from emergency personnel Eli had been in an accident.
"All I knew was that I woke up 30 feet from my Jet Ski," Eli says. "I started to swim back to it, but my right arm was the only part of my body that would move. I kept going and my body started waking up. I got back to the Jet Ski, saw the blood and gashes on my face in the side mirror, then threw up blood before grabbing my cell phone and calling 911. I didn't know what happened."
Within nine minutes of his 911 call, three rescue boats were on the scene. "Once help came, I stopped paying attention," Eli says. "I don't think I passed out, but I don't remember noticing or hearing anything. The next thing I knew, I was in a helicopter and being told that I was going to The Trauma Center at Lee Memorial Hospital."
Meanwhile, Eli's parents, Gregory and Lorrie Smith, were making the 1.5-hour trip from Marco Island to Lee Memorial Hospital.
"The whole time, I was thinking, 'I don't care if my son has brain damage or if he is paralyzed, I just want him to be alive,'" Lorrie says.
Once Eli arrived at The Trauma Center, Nelayda Fonte, D.O., a trauma surgeon, admitted, evaluated and stabilized him. "The types of injuries Eli sustained required a neurosurgeon and an oral/maxillofacial surgeon," Dr. Fonte says. "I called neurosurgeon Dr. Jeff Henn and Dr. Rafael Alcalde, the oral/maxillofacial surgeon."
Dr. Henn assessed Eli's injuries, which occurred when his face and head collided with the steering column of the Jet Ski. "Eli's skull fracture caused two main issues," Dr. Henn explains. "One was cosmetic. The other problem was that the fluid around his brain was leaking through the skull fracture and air was building around his brain, which increased the risk of infection, particularly meningitis."
Eli underwent a two-hour procedure performed by Dr. Henn and Dr. Alcalde. He woke up from surgery to find family members, friends, teachers and nurses rooting for him in his recovery.
Just as a team of people rescued Eli after his accident, another team took care of him day and night while he was in the hospital. That team included, in addition to the physicians, Matthew Donnelly, PA-C, a trauma and critical care physician assistant; Trish Bremer, RN, a surgical intensive care unit nurse; Jean Drake, RN, a post-anesthesia care unit nurse; and Kathy Wecher, a medical social worker.
Approximately two months after the accident, Eli and his mom made the trip from Marco Island to The Trauma Center to visit the health care team. "I was happy to come back," Eli says. "It was so nice to be able to come back and see the people who saved my life."
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