UF Health Shands Trauma Center celebrates 10 years of saving lives
UF Health ShandsCair flew Lewis, 19, from the site of the crash in Hamilton County, which sits on the Florida-Georgia border, to the Level 1 trauma center at University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. There, staff members from the UF Health Shands Trauma Center worked to save Lewis’s life and teamed with neurology and neurosurgery experts to treat her for the traumatic brain injury she suffered in the accident.
“They didn’t think I would survive the helicopter ride,” says Lewis, who is now back with her family in Lake City, Florida. “I feel like I am doing super well for someone with my prognosis at the beginning.”
As the UF Health Shands Trauma Center celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, her story of survival and recovery is not unique. Lewis is just one of 24,000 patients who have been treated at the center since it opened a decade ago. The Level 1 trauma center brings together experts from acute care surgery, critical care, emergency medicine, nursing, anesthesiology, radiology and more to quickly respond to the most devastating injuries in patients. When a trauma alert is called, a trauma surgeon, emergency room physician and resident, two registered nurses, a critical care technician and other staff members are all present when a patient arrives.
“The patients we see at our trauma center are in the hands of world-class experts, from the specialty faculty and trauma surgeons to the nurses, technicians, radiologists and other staff,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., UF senior vice president for health affairs and UF Health president. “Every day the trauma teams at UF Health renew their commitment to doing the best they can to save lives.”
In October 2004, UF Health Shands Hospital received approval as a provisional Level 1 trauma center. Prior to this approval, Lawrence Lottenberg, M.D., who had 20 years of experience working in trauma centers, had been recruited to build the trauma center from the ground up. He oversaw efforts to not only develop guidelines and procedures but also to establish coordination among myriad specialties such as surgery, orthopedics, anesthesiology, critical care, neurosurgery and plastic surgery. By July 2005, the center received full designation as a Level 1 trauma center.
During the 10 years since its inception, the UF Health Shands Trauma Center has grown to include 10 board-certified trauma surgeons and four pediatric trauma surgeons and now has nearly twice as much space, with four state-of-the-art resuscitation bays, a designated operating room and a 24-bed trauma intensive care unit. In addition, trauma patients have quick access to imaging services and the expertise of a full bevy of UF Health specialists. The trauma center is also home to a regional burn center with eight dedicated beds.
“Through his tremendous work and effort, Dr. Lottenberg established a respected trauma center from which to excel,” said Frederick A. Moore, M.D., chief of acute care surgery for the UF College of Medicine.
Aside from being a high-profile clinical operation offering expert care to patients, leaders from the UF Health Shands Trauma Center are also working to educate the next generation of trauma surgeons and conduct research to further improve the care patients receive. UF Health is preparing to launch a fellowship to offer specialized training for acute care surgeons and has recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study patients with sepsis, a complication that affects many trauma patients.
“What is unique about this trauma center is that the hospital sits right on top of the University of Florida, which is one of the leading research universities in the country,” Moore said. “That provides us with a unique opportunity to do research that is not available many places.”
In addition to the care provided in the Level 1 trauma center, the survival and recovery of patients depends heavily on key partnerships with UF Health ShandsCair, which provides air transport to severely injured patients, law enforcement, fire and rescue teams, and the UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital. Physical and occupational therapists at the UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital help recovering trauma patients reestablish crucial skills so they can return to their lives.
“Our ShandsCair flight crew and our first-responder community partners are crucial to saving the lives of our patients,” said Edward Jimenez, interim CEO of UF Health Shands. “Without their expert care in keeping patients alive and getting them quickly to the trauma center, our trauma center team would not be able to provide the care necessary to save these patients’ lives. In addition, our UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital provides another level of care in rehabilitating patients so they can rebuild their lives.”
Given the severity of her injuries, Lewis’ speedy recovery has surprised everyone. She’s already graduated from outpatient occupational therapy and is now working to regain her competitive running skills — she was on the cross-country and track teams at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University prior to her accident. She is also rebuilding her academic skills so she can return to Embry-Riddle in the fall.
“I am so happy that I was immediately sent to UF Health,” she said. “I don’t know another hospital that could have helped me the way they did.”