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Here During Difficult Times: Lee Health Trauma

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Author name: Lee Health


Almost 30 years ago—29 to be exact—trauma victims had to be transported out of Southwest Florida to get trauma care elsewhere, typically in Tampa or Miami. Minutes matter after a critical care injury because timely care increases survival odds. For visiting family members, distance matters, too. The health of their loved ones should occupy their minds, not traffic conditions.

But all that changed in 1994 when Lee Health opened our region’s first trauma center at Lee Memorial Hospital. Since then, the Lee Health Regional Trauma Center has treated more than 46,000 injured patients.

“Getting the right level of care in the right amount of time promotes good outcomes,” says Dr. Maria Alfaro, Lee Health Trauma medical director. In observance of National Trauma Awareness Month, Dr. Alfaro offers an insider’s peek into Lee Health Regional Trauma in this question-and-answer session.

Q: In January, Lee Health Regional Trauma Center made headlines when it relocated from Lee Memorial Hospital to Gulf Coast Medical Center. What was behind that exciting development?

The move was part of a major expansion to better serve all five counties in our community. To do this, Gulf Coast Medical Center underwent a $315 million expansion project, which added 268 new inpatient beds, bringing the hospital’s total bed count to 624 from 356. The project also expanded our emergency department and intensive care unit (ICU) spaces.

The move to Gulf Coast Medical Center ensures we have adequate treatment space to serve the trauma service needs of our growing area. Our population is really booming! The additional space also gives us a more centralized location to provide services.

Q: What about Lee Memorial Hospital?

The emergency department at Lee Memorial Hospital remains open and continues to serve the community 24 hours per day. Any community member who needs emergency care should continue to visit their nearest hospital’s emergency room.

Q: Who are the patients of the Regional Trauma Center?

The trauma center serves only the most complex and life-threatening cases. More than 90 percent of those cases are comprised of blunt trauma from falls, motor vehicle crashes and motorcycle crashes.

Q: Okay, let’s get a little more personal. What are the most important qualities a trauma surgeon and their team should have?

Trauma surgeons must remain calm during times of high stress. We’re often taking care of critically ill patients, so directing the trauma team effectively during times of crisis is important. Everyone plays a vital role when it comes to saving lives, literally. Because the trauma surgeon leads the team, how they act during an emergency sets the tone for everyone. The surgeon and their team—which includes members of the trauma bay, operating room, and intensive care unit—must all feel like we're part of a team. That goes a long way to making sure the patient gets the best possible care.

Q:  What do you know about emergency medical situations that the common person should know?

The “golden hour” of trauma is the first hour after someone has a serious traumatic injury, during which there is a higher likelihood a seriously injured patient could be saved by prompt medical and surgical treatment. The best thing we can do for a seriously injured patient is get them to the trauma bay as soon as possible.

Q:  People have a much better chance of not ending up in the ER if they…

This has more than one answer, so here’s mine:

  • Wear their seatbelts.
  • Use designated drivers when you drink and plan to drive.
  • Minimize distractions while driving, such as not texting.
  • Are aware of their surroundings both while driving or as pedestrians.
  • Do not climb ladders after the age of 60.

Q:  What one medical skill should everybody learn?

Actually, we should all learn two medical skills:  cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, and Stop the Bleed.

READ: Here’s how to save a life with CPR

Bleeding is the No. 1 cause of preventable death after injury. If you know how to apply direct pressure to a wound and a tourniquet during bleeding, you might save a life—even your own! It only takes three minutes for someone to bleed to death from an arterial bleed.

Q: What's something people do when they come into the ER that they think helps the situation but really doesn't.

Yelling at staff. We understand injured patients are afraid, upset and stressed, but we’re just trying to help. We can do our best for you if you let us help you.

Also, please don’t apply food items to your or anyone else’s wounds. We’ve had well-meaning people use mayonnaise as an ointment on injuries. Frozen poultry or meat placed on areas of swelling doesn’t help, either.

Q: What message should our readers take away from this blog?

The trauma team consists of staff in many areas of the hospital. This includes nurses, techs, advanced providers, physicians, office staff and ancillary personnel. We all work incredibly hard to provide every patient with the excellent care they deserve, regardless of the time or day when they suffer traumatic injuries.

Our teams strive to provide compassionate care during these difficult times to our most vulnerable patients. All members of the trauma team, from pre-hospital services to the time of discharge, are engaged, passionate, and proud of the work we do and the care we provide. 

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