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When Trauma Hits, EIRMC Heals

By Jessica Poe

Published online: Sep 07, 2023 Health & Wellness
Viewed 1227 time(s)

On Christmas Eve 2018, Kait Boyle, a world champion ultra-cyclist, stopped at a grocery store in Driggs to pick up items for a potluck dinner. She then headed down a snowy two-lane highway. That’s when Kait’s truck hit black ice, fishtailed and ultimately collided with an oncoming vehicle.

T-boned at her driver’s side door, Kait’s trapped body screamed with pain.

I immediately felt a burning sensation in my pelvis, and I couldn’t feel my legs. I started wondering if I was paralyzed,” Kait remembers. “In cycling, when something out of control happens you have two choices: completely freak out or remain calm and control what you can. At that point, I was pinned in my truck and couldn’t move; but I could control my breath. I focused there. I decided right then that I’d be fine, and if I ever could bike again, I’d do my best and make the most of it.”

It took emergency crews more than 2 hours to pry Kait from her crushed truck and get her to a local hospital, where a CT scan revealed a burst bladder, a pelvis fractured in four places, and fractured sacrum and fibula. Considering her severe injuries, medical professionals determined Kait needed an hour-long ambulance ride so she could receive care at the highest qualified facility in the area: Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC).

As a Level II Trauma Center serving people across millions of acres of backcountry, EIRMC has vast experience with extreme injuries. From machinery-related accidents on the potato farm to catastrophes at Yellowstone National Park, EIRMC knows what to do – and has team members always ready to do it.

Since traumatic injuries can occur any day, at any time, EIRMC maintains 24-hour immediate coverage for trauma surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedic trauma surgery, emergency medicine and radiology.

We have the right people at the bedside, at the right time, to achieve the best outcomes for our critically injured patients,” explained Cheri Arnold, Trauma Program Director at EIRMC. “It is typically completely unexpected for someone to be traumatically injured. But when it happens, we are prepared to take the best possible care of them. One way people can recognize the quality of care at EIRMC is to understand the value of being a nationally verified trauma center.”

EIRMC has maintained the designation of a nationally verified trauma center by the American College of Surgeons for nearly two decades. To earn and keep the elite verification, the trauma center meets stringent national standards (which climb significantly higher than Idaho’s current state standards) to demonstrate the advanced quality of care provided to patients.

When traumatic injuries smash bodies (and hope), EIRMC’s top-quality trauma care works to restore it.

Since Kait’s bladder burst, urine contaminated her body. With an increased risk for infections, she had to wait several days before physicians could stabilize and perform surgery on her broken sacrum and pelvis.

I lay dead still during those days. Everything is connected to the pelvis – the legs, core and even arms are an extension. Shifting weight or adjusting my position was the most painful thing I could imagine, even with major pain killers. So, I didn’t move. During that time, my doctors came up with a plan for how to best stabilize my pelvis,” Kait said.

Kait’s team of expert physicians at EIRMC dedicated their holidays to her healing.

They were wonderful! They kept saying I was their Christmas miracle. They instilled this positive attitude and belief that I am very lucky, and everything would heal just fine. My orthopedic trauma surgeon, Dr. Lance Jacobson, even told me I’d be able to walk and bike again!” Kait said.

To stabilize Kait’s pelvis and hold the bones in proper position, Dr. Jacobson and team implanted an external fixator. This treatment, designed to enable patients to return to function as quickly as possible, involved two pins placed in Kait’s pelvic bones and two carbon rods that acted as an external brace; the devise remained in place for 12 weeks. Additionally, two screws repaired her sacrum.

That was the beginning of healing for me,” Kait recalled.

EIRMC trauma care: Ready for your worst day

Dr. Jacobson remembers Kait’s incredibly traumatic case, and he says being part of a person’s healing process is an honor.

We embrace the opportunity to help people on their worst day,” Dr. Jacobson said. “Some facilities avoid trauma care because it’s unpredictable and tends to happen on weekends, holidays and in the middle of the night. On the other hand, at EIRMC we feel passionate about trauma care, and that passion makes us uniquely dedicated to our patients.”

Dr. Michael Lemon, Trauma Medical Director at EIRMC agrees.

Trauma care helps people in their most vulnerable state, and EIRMC has the highest level of clinical competency in the region. Period. In fact, we have the fewest number of transfers out of the region–meaning we take patients transferred from other facilities, but it’s a rarity that we send our patients to other places for care). The bottom line is: We are ready, willing and capable of caring for you and your family members.”

Thanks to her impressive determination and the dedicated help of her trauma and rehabilitation teams at EIRMC, Kait went on to accomplish an astounding personal goal. From wheelchair, to walker, to cane, to bike, Kait advanced in performance. Then, in November 2020, Kait raced the iconic 137-mile Kokopeli Trail, running from Fruita, Colorado to Moab, Utah. It was her first major race since the accident, and she soared through – setting the fastest known time for a female cyclist.

The No. 1 traumatic injury in the nation sounds less extreme but just as dangerous

While Kait experienced extreme trauma, along with extreme recovery and success, the No. 1 reason for trauma care at EIRMC, and in the nation, is much more commonplace.

We may instantly think about ATV or skiing accidents when it comes to trauma, but it turns out some of our most devastating trauma happens with ground-level falls for our geriatric population. As bones get weaker, severe injuries can occur from simple falls,” Dr. Jacobson said.

For frail elderly patients, ground-level falls hold the potential for being massively destructive – even if, on the outside, everything looks normal.

Falls are incredibly deceptive. The worst thing you can do with this kind of trauma is to downplay and delay care. When an elderly person falls, they need qualified, attentive medical professionals who will not miss what’s going on,” Dr. Lemon replied.

To ensure the best possible care for every situation, EIRMC has a fine-tuned trauma team compiled of expert, specialized professionals, including ER physicians, trauma surgeons, ER and ICU nurses, respiratory therapists, anesthesiologists, radiology, laboratory, blood bank and social services support.

In a trauma, we work with intention and purpose in a systematic and well-organized team. Everyone has a key part in the patient’s best care,” Arnold said. “I’m proud to be a part of this team at EIRMC. The level of care here is exceptional.”

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