Lee Health Trauma Center Marks Silver Anniversary of Saving Lives

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The 9-1-1 call comes in, and emergency personnel are dispatched to victims in a car crash, or to someone who has fallen off a ladder, or to a bicyclist struck by a car. The arriving emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics assess the situation and
their patients, tend to the casualties, begin treatment, and decide on patient transport to a hospital or trauma center — all within 10 minutes of their arrival. The first 10 minutes
during which EMTs make critical treatment and transport decisions are known as the “platinum ten.” In turn, the “platinum ten” leads to the “golden hour” – those precious minutes after a critical injury when someone needs timely care to increase their odds of survival, and chances to return home with the quality of life.
For 25 years, team members with the Trauma
Center at Lee Memorial Hospital have jumped into action at a moment’s notice to treat victims of trauma, the leading cause of death among Floridians younger than age 44. Since opening in 1994, the center has treated more than 42,000 injured patients.
“Getting the right level of care in the right amount of time promotes good outcomes,” says Michael Marcus, RN, trauma program manager. Michael, who joined the Trauma Center in 1996, says the center received relatively few trauma alerts in its early years. However, Southwest Florida’s population boom across the five counties the trauma center serves — Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades, and Hendry — now generates more than 2,500 injured patients annually. It remains the only trauma center between Sarasota and Miami. The Trauma Center provides access to the increased trauma care in the growing region because it functions as an
integrated system of care, Michael says.
“Our trauma center is the central part of our communities’ steadfast commitment to preventing injury, responding quickly when it does occur, assure access
to comprehensive services, and provide rehabilitation and reintegration back to the community,” Michael says. “Our goal is to keep you from becoming injured, and if you do, get you back to doing what you were always able to do.”
Trauma Medical Director Jose Diaz, M.D., says, “The center relies on a big span of services known as the trauma continuum. It begins with the dispatchers, first responders, paramedics, pilots, flight nurses, and mechanics. Here at the hospital, we are a system of trauma-trained specialty talent that is ready 24/7 to treat complex and life- threatening injuries in our community.”
The Trauma Center is a safety net for the communities of Southwest Florida, Michael says. “Traumatic injury is not something people or families plan for when going about their day.”
Exceptional trauma care relies on an optimally functioning trauma system, requiring a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach:
24/7 in-house coverage by a trauma surgeon
24/7 access to specialty and non-specialty surgeons and physicians
24/7 on-call neurosurgeons
24/7 on-site anesthesia provider, surgical services team and trauma-trained nurses
After patients are stabilized, their continuum of care is the responsibility of the trauma center staff until they are released from the trauma center.
Former Trauma Center Patient’s Gratitude Speaks Volumes
Michael recalls the grateful words of a former trauma patient, who recently received treatment and care from the trauma program:
“I spent 15 days with a tube in my throat and could not do anything for myself. Your team did everything for me, and I am thankful for all of them. I remember my doctor’s name, but there were so many other people who took care of me, too. I can’t remember who they all are, but they are the ones who did the hardest work to make me better.”
Michael says the patient’s experience reminds us that, in a flash, a traumatic injury can render one unable to take care of oneself without the help of others. And that’s what makes the members of the trauma team unique.
“It takes a team of specialized professionals to support an injured person. The doctors diagnose, intervene as needed, and implement a care plan. But the registered nurses and the support team members spend the most time with an injured patient. These experts ensure patient safety, perform life-saving care, monitor everything (and I mean everything) that goes on with their bodies as they recover.
“The support staff also administers medications, ensures patients have adequate nutrition to heal, keeps them moving to prevent complications, all while providing physical, emotional, and spiritual support to them and their families. They are dedicated to helping restore our patients to physical and mental functioning and putting them on the path back to health.
“These devoted people are your neighbors and friends taking care of their neighbors and friends.
“We are grateful for every one of them and their dedication to the trauma program.”