Survive. Connect. Rebuild.

“Remember how far you've come,
not just how far you have to go.
You are not where you want to be,
but neither are you where you used to be.”

― Rick Warren

Remember how far you've come, not just how far you have to go.  . . . Sometimes the healing process for a trauma survivor can feel like two steps forward and then 1 step back. You may finally reach a new goal in recovery only to hear from your surgeon that another surgery is necessary. You may finally get good news from the insurance company, the lawyer, the doctor, the physical therapist, only to receive some discouraging news the next day. 

You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be . . . For survivors, the recovery process and adjusting to the "new normal" after trauma can be exhausting, but it's important to keep track of how far you've come. Everyone's life journey is personal and unique. If you wrote a book about your life, there would be some chapters of great challenges and some chapters of great joy. As you keep moving forward in your journey, celebrate even the smallest of victories. Connect with other survivors and supportive people who cheer you on and can also remind you that you are not where you used to be. And on the days you find a new setback, go back to those moments when you thought you couldn't achieve the goal, and yet you did. Celebrate the courage it takes to face each challenge to keep moving forward as a survivor. Survive. Connect. Rebuild. 

Super Survivors

Highlighting Trauma Survivor, Emily and Her Parents, Kelliann and Mark

Emily's Survivor Story
(written by her Mom, Kelliann)

On 10-11-2014 our family was on vacation in Tazwell, TN. We had taken a ride on our 4 wheelers and Emily lost control of her ATV which caused her to fall off resulting in a TBI along with other injuries which were minor in comparison to the TBI. She was taken to the local hospital in Claiborne County and then life flighted to University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. Emily was originally given a very low chance of survival and the palliative care team was called in for the family. (I originally thought they were just there to help us since we were from out of town…little did I know what they were there to do in case the need arose but I certainly appreciated them helping us during those difficult days) Emily underwent a craniectomy to remove a large section of her skull to allow for the swelling in her brain a few days after the accident. Her ICP’s were rising and without that surgery she would have probably passed away. What a very scary experience to be woken up at 4:00 am in the trauma family waiting room to be told your daughter was heading into emergency surgery and this was the last thing they could really do to try and save her life. I still get chills thinking about that to this day. Emily also had a tracheotomy and a feeding tube inserted since she needed to be taken off of the ventilator since we were told the longer that she stayed on it the worse things could be for her. She was in a medically induced coma for several days as things were very touch and go. On 10-21-14 she was moved to the step down trauma unit at UTMC and remained there until we were flown back to Michigan on 11-6-14 so she could begin her rehab at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Six days into rehab she was admitted to ICU as she was having difficulty breathing and ended up having to have another tracheotomy done. (Before we left UTMC they removed the original trach.) She was in ICU for almost 2 weeks. After ICU she went back to the rehab floor and she was released from the hospital on 12-23-14 and came home to continue her rehab. (BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER!!!)

What was recovery like? 
Recovery was a roller coaster ride to say the least. You have good days where you would see progress and then something would happen to set things back and you felt like you were starting all over again. I will never forget the day they brought in the net bed for Emily. She was trying to get out of bed herself not understanding that she needed help and since she had the craniectomy she had to be so careful because if she fell and hit her head again it could have killed her. I remember leaving the hospital for the night and having to make sure that she was secured in the bed – it just broke my heart. I would walk down the hall just crying. I had to realize that it was for her safety and she was better in the net bed than not being in it. We were originally told this was a marathon and not a race and they were correct in that statement. To see your 21 year old daughter having to learn to talk, walk, eat, learn basic things over again was heartbreaking but with each step forward we rejoiced at the progress she was making. Even when things were going backwards, we just kept pushing forward and continuing the battle. We have been so blessed and all I can say is this is a true miracle. All of the doctors’ appointments and surgeries have gotten us to where we are today. Emily has done very well and is doing pretty much everything she did prior to the accident. She is back to work, driving, taking care of herself, etc. She struggles with some things but we realize they are minor in comparison and with everything else, we will get through this. Life is good and we are blessed.

Why do you want to share your story with other survivors and loved ones through the Trauma Survivors Network?  
I feel it is so important to bring awareness to the invisible injury that is TBI. To know that other people understand what you are going through and can offer advise and comfort certainly can help to ease the pain. This injury will never fully go away and having someone to talk to and listen to can make all the difference to someone in need. We have to pay it forward and give back in any way we can. We are all members of a group that none of chose to be members of and we are in this together.
A Special Survivor Anniversary Celebration

Kelliann reached out to the National TSN Coordinator and shared that every year around Emily's survivor anniversary date, their family makes a special trip from their home in Michigan to the University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC) in Knoxville, TN to say thank you to the trauma team and share Emily's progress. It has become a tradition that was very meaningful to Emily and her family. While the TSN program had not yet been established at UTMC when Emily was a patient, the TSN Coordinators at UTMC, Elizabeth Waters and Therese Zaltash, were excited to hear about Emily's upcoming survivor anniversary trip and planned a beautiful TSN survivor anniversary celebration for Emily and her family. Exactly 4 years after Emily's accident, the TSN and Trauma Teams at UTMC held a special breakfast and tour in Emily's honor. Emily, Kelliann, and Mark were able to give and receive hugs and encouragement with the TSN Team and the trauma medical professionals who personally cared for Emily in the earliest phases of her recovery. Emily and her parents were able to share their thanks and show how far Emily has come in her healing process.

Watch this beautiful video of Emily's visit here:

Highlighting Trauma Survivor, Matt and his Dad, Mike
Matt's Survivor Story
(Written by his Dad, Mike, who serves on the Board of Directors for the American Trauma Society)

On Sunday, November 2, 2008, our youngest son, Matt, was cycling on the Blue Ridge Parkway with two other members of the University of Virginia triathlon team. They were about 45 miles into their planned 85-mile training ride from Charlottesville, Virginia, where Matt was a third-year student at UVA, up into the mountains of the Parkway. Matt was involved in a head-on collision with a car traveling at 40 mph, with the impact squarely into his face. When he landed, he was still clipped into his bicycle pedals, and for all practical purposes he was dead – not breathing, his face crushed, blood dripping from his ears indicating traumatic brain injury.Remarkably, immediately behind the car that hit Matt was another car and the driver of this car was an anesthesiologist at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville. Mark Harris actually saw Matt land in the roadway following the impact from the accident, turning to his wife and saying “That boy’s dead.” He stopped his car, ran over to Matt who was not breathing, and used his medical training skills and experience to open Matt’s airway. Dr. Harris managed to keep Matt alive until he could be airlifted by helicopter to the University of Virginia medical center.

My wife and I, as well as our oldest son, were in Charlottesville that weekend for the football game against the University of Miami. We were about to board a flight back to the Philadelphia area where we then lived when we received a phone call telling us that Matt had been involved in a serious accident and had been transported by helicopter to the UVA medical center. When we got to the hospital, we were told that Matt would probably not survive his injuries. To relieve the swelling in his brain, the doctors put Matt into an induced coma. Later that evening, he underwent the first of many surgeries. Over the next several weeks, there were many ups and downs, highs and lows. Just about 72 hours after putting Matt into an induced coma, the doctors gradually brought him out of the coma and informed us that Matt was going to make it. Matt survived for many reasons, but primary among them was most likely his physical conditioning, the quick thinking and heroic actions of the first responders to the accident scene, the incredible doctoring skills of Mark Harris and all the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel at the UVA medical center, and the protection given to Matt’s brain by his helmet and by his face – we later learned that the air pockets in Matt’s face were able to cushion the blunt trauma from the impact with the car that hit him, with every bone in his face fractured or shattered, but the front of his brain kept intact.

Miraculously, Matt was released from the hospital less than four weeks after the accident, having undergone numerous surgeries (including two major surgeries to rebuild his face). He had an open tracheotomy tube in his throat and had lost considerable weight, with his mouth wired shut following the facial surgeries. To get out of the hospital, without having a feeding tube surgically implanted through his abdomen into his stomach (something Matt was adamantly against), he was going to have to demonstrate to the hospital nutritionist that he could consume at least 4,000 calories a day, by straw through a gap in the few remaining fragments of teeth he still had. And he did.
There were many other problems and issues to deal with, including extensive damage to Matt’s facial nerves making him look physically deformed, similar to a major stroke victim. But Matt was determined to get out of the hospital by Thanksgiving, and he did – on the eve of the holiday. There were continuing problems and issues to deal with, including rebuilding the jaw and, with time, beginning the process of removing what fractured or shattered teeth remained after the accident and inserting implants – a nearly two year process. But Matt was back in school before the end of January 2009, taking a greatly reduced course load but back nonetheless. He graduated on time in May 2010, was able to fulfill his dream of going on to medical school (at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in May 2014 at the top of his class), was married to his high school sweetheart, Emily, who was with him throughout his ordeal, never wavering from her love and support, and in June 2014 began his residency in ENT/Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Virginia, working with the same doctors who had helped save his life and had rebuilt his face. He and Emily, who also did her residency at UVA, in Dermatology, had their first child, Anderson, at the end of May 2018. Next year, after finishing his residency at UVA, Matt will be at Harvard, having been selected for their Fellowship program in Facial Plastics/Reconstructive Surgery.
What was recovery like? 
Matt’s recovery was remarkable and astonishing in many respects. His facial nerves healed and he no longer looks like a major stroke victim. The doctors had warned when Matt survived the accident that he would most likely never have a “normal” life – there would be, at best, long term and, perhaps, permanent brain damage. Going on to medical school was out of the question. Today, our son is an accomplished young surgeon, and has regained his good physical looks with only a few telltale signs (such as his trach scar) of his traumatic injuries. To demonstrate to himself that he had totally healed, physically and otherwise, from his accident, Matt decided to compete in his first Ironman competition in November 2010, almost exactly two years after the accident and during the first semester of medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. After rigorous training throughout the summer before starting medical school, Matt and our entire family traveled to Cozumel, Mexico, where Matt competed in and completed the Ironman – 2.4 miles of an open water swim in the Gulf of Mexico, followed by 112 miles on the bicycle and finally running a marathon (26.2 miles). Matt finished with a time 10 hours, 30 minutes, putting him in the top 10 percent of all 2,300 competitors, including the pros. Clearly, Matt had fully recovered from his injuries, physically and otherwise, and he, and our entire family, were then, and always will be, incredibly grateful.  

Why do you want to share your story with other survivors and loved ones through the Trauma Survivors Network?
When asked to share Matt’s story with others, I agreed for a few reasons. Matt’s story had first been told by Michael Vitez, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist then with the Philadelphia Inquirer. Vitez first wrote a series of feature stories in the Inquirer about Matt and his remarkable recovery from his near-death accident; later on, he wrote a book about Matt – The Road Back, a Journey of Grace and Grit.  
Matt’s story has consistently provided hope and inspiration to others. So, if sharing Matt’s story can help others, providing hope and inspiration where otherwise there is none (or very little), then that in and of itself is compelling reason enough.
After Matt’s accident, I was recruited to serve on the board of the American Trauma Society by Forrest Calland, the trauma surgeon who had admitted Matt the day of his accident. An integral part of the ATS’s mission includes the TSN program so, when asked to share Matt’s story, it just seemed obvious that I should do so. My service on the ATS board has made abundantly clear that there needs to be more focus and attention on the trauma victim/survivor as well as family members, and I serve on the board as a grateful family member of a very grateful patient.
In Loving Memory of TSN Peer Visitor, Pat
The TSN would like to honor, in loving memory, a faithful TSN Peer Visitor, Pat, who recently passed away. Pat was a founding member of the TSN program at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston Salem, NC. He devoted countless hours to supporting trauma survivors and families. His kindness and quiet strength will always be remembered. Pat's story can be viewed on the TSN website for a couple more weeks:
Please keep Pat's family and the TSN Team at Wake Forest Baptist Health in your thoughts and prayers. 

TSN Race Highlights: 
TSN Race to Rebuild

Special thanks to everyone who supported Eileen Flores, National TSN Coordinator, in raising funding for the national TSN program and building awareness for trauma survivors and families. Eileen's goal was to raise $100 for each of the 13.1 miles of the half marathon she chose to run in support of survivors. Together, with the generosity of many survivors, family members and medical professionals, we surpassed the goal and raised $1,755. 
Survive. Connect. Rebuild. 
TSN Team in the Baltimore Running Festival 

"For the past 8 years, the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center's TSN has participated in the iconic Baltimore Running Festival. This year 137 survivors, family members, STC staff and community partners formed a passionate and awe inspiring team which collectively ran and walked over 940 miles - all to raise awareness and support of the TSN. As the TSN Coordinator, I am both humbled and inspired by the passion our survivors bring to their recovery journeys. This day was an amazing display of what the TSN is really about, and the impact it makes."
--Frannie Grissom, BSN, RN, TSN Coordinator, University of Maryland Medical Center, R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center

"As a survivor of three years, the Baltimore Running Festival has always been one of my favorite TSN events. Not only does it contribute to the growth of the organization through fundraising, but it has been a perfect display of my growth as a survivor. For my first running fest in 2016, I was a “sleeper” runner, and didn’t actually run the event. In 2017, I progressed to actually completing the 5k in a wheel chair. And in 2018, post amputation, I made it through my first 5k with a prosthetic leg.  The TSN, at the University of Maryland, has been a strong support system and network of people I am proud to call my friends. They have certainly made it easy for me to adjust to my new normal, not only living, but thriving." 

--Scott, Trauma Survivor and TSN Peer Visitor

Watch Scott's Video Highlight Here:

"When you have a traumatic injury, you lose the ability to control so many things in your life, but when we participate in the running festival, we gain back some control of what we can do. And when we cross the finish line with our friends, other survivors, it's magical and so very powerful. We are so proud of each other; we are stronger together."

--Theresa , Trauma Survivor and TSN Peer Visitor

Watch Theresa and Kim's Video Highlight Here:

Welcome New TSN Sites

The American Trauma Society would like to welcome these Trauma Centers and Rehabilitation Hospitals, who have just started a TSN program in Fall 2018. Click on each trauma center name to learn more about this TSN program or to contact the TSN Coordinator there.
Medical Center Navicent Health in Macon, GA

Mercy Medical Center- Redding in Redding, CA

Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA

Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, IL

Lutheran Hospital of Indiana in Ft. Wayne, IN

The Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, HI

Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, AZ

TSN Program Highlights

Highlighting USA Health University Hospital
USA Health University Hospital in Mobile, Alabama recently held their 2nd Annual "A Night Honoring Heroes" Event. Sixty-five local first responders, including health care professionals, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency operators and others, received medals and were recognized Thursday during the gala “A Night Honoring Heroes” for their life-saving efforts. More than 760 people attended the event that highlighted the courage and dedication of those who help trauma patients survive after a traumatic injury. Proceeds will support this trauma center and the incredible work they do in trauma survivor's lives. Each year, USA Health University Hospital highlights two trauma patients and their extraordinary journey from injury to survivor. There are 30 Heroes selected for each patient, and they are selected from their involvement at any point from pre-hospital, inpatient, or outpatient services. 

"A Night Honoring Heroes gives the community a first-hand look into what actually occurs for patients from onset of injury through discharge and recovery. Most people may not know exactly how many people from different entities come together and share in the care for a patient. The best part is being able to see these patients walk up on the stage and speak after surviving an unexpected horrific injury. Healthcare professionals do not choose this career path for notoriety. They choose it because they want to help people when they are at their most vulnerable. Having a night dedicated to honoring these individuals and the patients is a special time to reflect and enjoy all of the positives from saving someone’s life. It also gives us a chance to reconnect with patients, to be able to see how far they have come. We don’t get nearly enough chances to see patients after they leave a hospital, so it brings great happiness to see all of the hard work and time spent has had good results for the patient. A Night Honoring Heroes Gala is a fundraising event with proceeds going to develop our new trauma center. University Hospital is one of the smallest, if not the smallest Level 1 Trauma Center in the nation. Our new Fanny Meisler Trauma Center will more than double our current capacity to allow us to better serve our community and neighboring areas."
--Andrew Haiflich, MSN, RN, Director, Trauma Services, TSN Coordinator, USA Health University Hospital

Watch this beautiful video of Trauma Survivor, Jordan, and the trauma medical professionals who provided life-saving care:

Highlighting Atrium Health Levine Children's and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
The TSN continues to expand program services to support pediatric trauma survivors and their families. As Pediatric TSN programs, the TSN Teams at Atrium Health Levine Children's in Charlotte, NC (TSN Coordinator: Jessie Levy and Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Megan Waddell) and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA (TSN Coordinator: Jennifer Kovic and Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Diane Perks) work to support children and teens after a traumatic injury occurs and provide support services for caregivers, siblings, etc. In 2018, the TSN Coordinators and Pediatric Trauma Program Managers worked in collaboration with Eileen Flores, National TSN Coordinator, on a Pediatric Work Group to develop a TSN Resource Guide for Pediatric Survivors and Families, which is similar to the TSN Patient and Family Handbook used by adult TSN programs. Using their expertise in pediatric trauma, the members of this Pediatric Work Group combined age-appropriate topics for children and teens and important information for parents and caregivers to be included in this resource guide. After much editing and group revisions, the Pediatric Work Group submitted this pediatric resource guide to the ATS-TSN Advisory Committee and to the ATS Board of Directors for further edits and eventually ATS Board approval. Congrats to this team for their time and dedication on this valuable resource. 
Highlighting Bryan Medical Center
Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Nebraska host an annual "Tribute to Trauma Champions" event to honor both trauma survivors and the first responders and medical professionals who help save lives every day. It takes innovative and aggressive treatments to bring critically injured patients back from life-threatening injuries, and that’s just what the Nebraska Trauma System and Bryan Trauma Center celebrate each year, along with patient families and caregivers. The event honors the heroic life-saving measures taken by the Nebraska State Trauma System, which includes first responders, emergency medical services, critical access hospitals, family members, physicians and Bryan staff. 
This year, Bryan Medical Center honored trauma survivor, Miles as well as his family. The champions honored included first responders Sara Slingsby, RN, of Good Samaritan AirCare and Jeff Engberg, NRP, of Grand Island Fire and Rescue. Other medical professionals, such as Matt Kampfe, PT, and Matt O’Neill, PT, of Alpha Rehab of Kearney were also honored for their part in Miles' recovery process. Stanley Okosun, MD, and Alesha Scott, DO, of Bryan Medical Center's trauma team were also honored. 

Watch this beautiful video highlighting Miles and the many trauma professionals who were instrumental in his life-saving care:
Highlighting MetroHealth Medical Center
Congratulations to the TSN Team at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, OH for being awarded the nation’s top award for health care volunteer programs. The American Hospital Association bestowed the 2018 Hospital Award for Volunteer Excellence to MetroHealth at a ceremony this Fall. The Trauma Survivors Network won in the Community Service category. Kim, a TSN Peer Visitor, accepted the award, on behalf of the TSN Team at MetroHealth. Thank you, Sarah Hendrickson and Megen Simpson, for your leadership and vision for your TSN program. Thank you, TSN Peer Visitors, for sharing your stories, your strengths, and your compassion with other trauma survivors and families. 

Watch this video with more highlights about Trauma Survivor, Kim and the TSN Program at MetroHealth:
Connect with the TSN on social media:

Contact Eileen Flores, National TSN Coordinator to:
  • Join the TSN
  • Share your story
  • Get more information
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