Against the Odds

If you arrive in the trauma bay breathing and with a heartbeat, the odds are in your favor. You likely will walk out of the hospital. In fact, 95.4 percent of the trauma patients who arrived at Creighton University Medical Center - Bergan Mercy between January 2016 and October 2016 survived and went home to their loved ones.

A little luck, a higher power and skilled hands helped them defy the odds. Here are some life-saving stories from CHI Health trauma centers.

Here Today: She Had a 5 Percent Chance of Surviving

When the would-be carjackers shot her, the bullet traveled through her left arm, left lung, heart and right lung. It now sits in her liver.
Caitlyn Novich calls what happened surreal. Others call it miraculous.

Novich was rushed to CHI Health’s Level I Trauma Center at Creighton University Medical Center - Bergan Mercy. A person with her injuries ordinarily has about a 5 percent chance of surviving.

“She had a cardiac injury which involved two of the four chambers of the right and left ventricles and bilateral pulmonary injuries,” said Trauma Surgeon Juan A. Asensio, MD. He pioneered stapled pulmonary tractotomy in 1997. It’s a technique to access the vessels deep within the lung for control of bleeding and repair of penetrating pulmonary injuries.

Novich still can’t understand why a stranger would shoot her for a car he never took. But she does understand every day now is precious.

And thanks her team at CUMC: “They saved my life.”

Flight Nurse Knew His Injuries Could Kill Him

As he lay injured on the ground, Troy Farrens knew he needed an air ambulance.

After all, Farrens is a flight nurse for LifeNet.
He’d been riding his motorcycle on a narrow blacktop road in Missouri when he and a car collided. Because of the remoteness of the location, it took about 30 minutes before medical help arrived.

“I almost bled to death,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to survive.”

A medical helicopter flew him to CHI Health’s Level I Trauma Center at Creighton University Medical Center - Bergan Mercy, where surgeons were forced to amputate his left leg to save his life. “I wasn’t surprised when I woke up,” he said. “I knew my primary injury in my leg was bad.”

Today, Farrens’s feeling good and looking ahead to a new prosthetic leg – as well as going back to work and saving lives – just as his trauma team saved his.

Freak Accident: Toddler Ends up with Rod in Her Head

Ashley Woodward was working on her family’s farm near Ord, Nebraska, when the unthinkable forced fast action. “Our adrenaline kicked in when Natalie (21 months) turned around and we saw our little girl with a 16-inch pivot rod sticking out of her forehead,” remembers the mother of three. “Natalie was kicking and screaming and I was trying to hold her and the rod still.”

The doctors at a local hospital took one look and called for CHI Health Good Samaritan AirCare.

AirCare nurses stabilized the rod, buried from forehead to the back of the brain. It could prove fatal if it moved during the 20-minute flight to CHI Health Good Samaritan’s Level II Trauma Center.

“She was taken from the helipad straight to surgery. An entire team had been prepared, including a pediatrician, anesthesiologist, general surgeon and neurosurgeon,” said Natalie’s father.

Because of quick action, Natalie has made a full recovery. She’s a spunky 3-year-old with no memory of the accident.

Siri – and Our Trauma Team – to the Rescue

Siri got him help. CHI Health’s Level I Trauma Center surgeons saved his life.

When Connor Oliver crashed his car in a remote area, he used Siri on his cellphone to call for help. It was 13 degrees outside and he was trapped.

Rescuers found him after a long search. At CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center - Bergan Mercy, the trauma team went to work on his collapsed lungs, ruptured spleen and other injuries. His body temperature was 85 degrees; the operating room was heated to 97 degrees to warm him up.

“He needed surgery right away as a life-saving measure,” said Trauma Surgeon Juan A. Asensio, MD. “He had lost about 40 percent of his blood.”

The exposure and blood loss eventually would have impaired Oliver’s cardiac, respiratory, gastrointestinal and renal functions. “He did not have much longer,” Dr. Asensio said.

Today, Oliver still marvels at the unlikely teamwork that saved his life – from the trauma team to the chatty app on his iPhone.

Amputee Grateful to be Alive: ‘I Have to Look Forward’

Gayle Peters figures he’s fed corn silage into the chopper thousands of times. The last time, it almost killed him.

“The chopper was plugged up,” he said. The blade caught his glove and the machine started pulling him in. “The next thing I knew my arm was in the chopper.”

Peters’ brother, Lowell, threw the chopper into reverse. The machine let go but Peters’ arm was mangled to above his elbow.

“Lowell ripped my shirt off and made it into a tourniquet,” Peters said. “It saved my life.”

At Creighton University Medical Center - Bergan Mercy’s Level I Trauma Center, Trauma Surgeon Bradley Phillips, MD, worked to stop the bleeding and pieced together the tissue on Peters’ upper arm. Then it was a waiting game – waiting for the wound to heal and waiting for Peters to learn to live and move differently.

Peters is now learning to use a prosthetic arm and is grateful to be alive. He knows everyone doesn’t survive chopper accidents. “What happened happened. I have to look forward,” he said, tearing up. “After all, I’m still here.”

Car Accident Turns Serious, Requires Quick Action

When the driver of a pick-up smashed nearly three feet into her driver’s side door, Kristi Epley’s first thought was that her injuries were relatively minor.

At CHI Health St. Francis, it was determined that Epley had suffered a Grade 4 splenic laceration and more than 25 percent of her spleen was damaged. The 59-year-old Wood River resident’s vital signs began deteriorating due to internal bleeding and her condition became unstable.

Interventional Radiologist Cody Evans, MD, rushed to the hospital on a scheduled day off and was able to stop the bleeding from Epley’s splenic artery using angiography and embolization.

With two units of packed red blood cells and two units of fresh frozen plasma, the St. Francis’ Level lll trauma team was able to save her spleen. Epley was discharged from St. Francis one week later.

“I felt like I was in good hands from the time the ambulance delivered me until the time that I was released,” Epley said.