COLORADO SPRINGS – There are so many aspects that have helped UCHealth Memorial Hospital Centralearn the designation as a Level I trauma center. It involves not only the commitment and skill of the doctors, nurses, and staff at Memorial, but it’s also the hospital’s relationship with partners. Those include the first responders who work in the remote parts of Colorado and who reach trauma patients first and lay the foundation for their treatment.
Over the last several months we have profiled the rescue and trauma treatment of a Colorado Springs man who was severely injured in June of 2018. Eddie Kerr was riding his dirt bike in the high country of Teller County when he became impaled on a tree limb that lodged in his neck.
UCHealth Memorial’s new LifeLine medical helicopter (story here) answered the call. Ami Bess (story here) the was the flight nurse that day, and Matthew Bergland (story here) was the flight paramedic. While the care Eddie received from the flight team prepping him, and quickly transporting him to Memorial Central where trauma doctors were able to put Eddie back together, those were the final key events in a chain of many that saved Eddie’s life.
His trauma care began with his own knowledge of first aid, and extended to his fellow riders that day who were able to make the call for help and direct that help to Eddie’s location.
Chuck Buckley is the Divide Fire Protection District Chief, and clearly remembers when the call came in. “We got paged out for a dirt bike accident in the forest. The patient was reported having branch limb stuck in his neck.”
The first challenge rescuers faced was locating Eddie in a complex area of popular motorcycle and ATV trails. It’s an area that Paramedic Nate Boyce with the Ute Pass Regional Paramedic Service knows well. “It’s pretty much a rats nest in there, there are trails everywhere.”
When a call involves a life threatening condition like Eddie’s Chief Buckley knows the first move is to mobilize. “We mustered a team and went to the trail head. It was fortunate there were other dirt bikers who had seen the accident and had come to the trail head that could guide us in. We had some campers, good Samaritans who were willing to lend us their ATV’s while ours were still on the way.”
Chief Buckley and his team met up with Nate and his partner at the trail head. Because they often respond to calls in the back country, the paramedics with Ute Pass Paramedic Service have what is essentially a trauma to-go bag and safety equipment with them at all times.
Nate explains, “We have a special backpack set up for these power sports related emergencies, and we have ATV helmets with us in the ambulance. It gives us the ability to get in and start providing paramedic level care, no matter where these folks are located.”
Eddie was 3 to 4 miles away from the trail head, and when the Chief and Nate arrived on scene the basics of trauma care were already in place, but Eddie was in a lot of pain.
Nate says, “The bystanders had done a great job of taking some items of clothing and fashioned a dressing out of that. They were applying direct pressure to Eddie’s wound, and that probably saved his life. We put a couple of large IV’s in him and gave him some pain medicine. Once we knew the helicopter was on its way we decided we could look at the wound. When we removed that dressing they had made, (we discovered) it was a serious, serious neck wound.”
In their back country trauma kit, the Ute Pass paramedics have the essentials as well as the very latest in wound care products.
Nate explains, “Fortunately from research in the military that has been passed to civilian EMS, we have more tools in our toolbox to treat trauma than even 5 years ago. One of the biggest advances in care has been special dressings that have material in them that promote blood clotting. For Eddie there wasn’t a lot of external bleeding we could see, but based on his wound we were fairly certain he was bleeding internally. We were able to take the dressing that has what’s called “quick clot” in it and pack that directly in to the wound and then seal it with a sticky plastic dressing over the top. Then that dressing goes to work on it’s own to promote blood clotting at the site of the wound.”
Eddie’s case was a severe trauma injury, in a less than ideal location but somehow everything seemed to go as it needed to, for his survival.
Nate says, “Once we reached him, I couldn’t think of a single thing that went wrong which is truly amazing on these calls that are logistical nightmares from the get go. Once we were able to reach him we were able to treat him easily, he was super co operative. We were able to get the helicopter right next to him. I don’t know if you call that luck or skill, but things worked out exactly as they needed to for a good outcome for Eddie.”