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Lee Health Trauma Center: Saving Lives for 30 Years

Health Hub
Author name: Lee Health


trauma photo

Trauma centers save thousands of lives by ensuring severely injured patients receive critical care within the “Golden Hour.” That’s the crucial first hour after a traumatic injury when treatment can offer the greatest chance of survival for a traumatically injured patient. 

For 30 years, Lee Health Trauma Center has practiced this concept when treating trauma patients arriving at its facility for lifesaving treatment from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties. 

In 1994, the Trauma Center opened its doors as Southwest Florida’s only state-approved Level II trauma center between Sarasota and Miami, a designation that Dr. Maria Alfaro, Lee Health Trauma Medical Director, plays a critical role in providing exceptional trauma care and services to community residents.

“Having a trauma center nearby is huge,” Dr. Alfaro says. “It means that if you or a loved one gets injured, you have a place locally where injuries can be addressed and potentially a life saved.”

Studies of conventional trauma care show that up to 35 percent of trauma patient deaths could have been prevented if a trauma center had been available nearby.

Serving five counties

Syndi Bultman, Trauma Injury Prevention & Resource Coordinator for Lee Health, recalls when the original trauma center was located at Lee Memorial Hospital

“In 1994, we started with few trauma alerts, but the number kept slowly increasing, going from around 500 per year to 4,531 in 2023,” she says. “All told, we’ve seen 58,261 patients at the Trauma Center, a number that will continue to rise as the population in our area continues to grow. We responded to this challenge by relocating to Gulf Coast Medical Center in 2022.”

Syndi says the move was part of a major expansion to serve all five counties better.

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 its 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,” Dr. Alfaro notes. “The additional space also gives us a more centralized location to provide services.”

The trauma center relies on services that start with the 911 dispatcher, EMT, paramedics, EMS, pilots, flight nurses, fire department, and law enforcement personnel.

These services include case management, medical social work support services before and after hospitalization, survivor support groups for patients and families, ambassador programs, and assistance with post-hospital navigation to help patients every step of their recovery journey.  

“At the hospital, we’re a system of trauma-trained specialty talent that’s ready 24/7/365 to treat complex and life-threatening injuries. From the nurses and the ER techs to the radiology techs in the trauma bay, to the nurses in the trauma intensive care unit,” Dr. Alfaro tells Health Matters. “Everybody works together as a big team to make this happen. It's a whole team effort that includes our trauma physicians and mid-level practitioners who are ready to meet any crisis, at any time.”

Side effects and safety

But the expert emergency medical care and treatment extends well past the “Golden Hour,” Syndi says.

“Once life-saving measures have started, our care focuses on emotional and psychological side effects that affect the entire family. The Trauma Center currently averages around 400 patients each month and treats the most complex and life-threatening cases, with more than 90 percent involving blunt trauma from falls, motor vehicle accidents and motorcycle crashes,” she explains.

“These accidents and injuries can have a profound, lifelong impact on individuals, families, and communities.”

The Trauma Center also helps raise awareness of injury prevention and safety. The hope, Syndi says, is to empower community residents and visitors to make positive choices and thus avoid needing care in the trauma center. 

Lee Health Trauma Care Programs include:

  • Youth Violence Prevention (G.A.T.E.) 
    • Gang Awareness Training Education (G.A.T.E.), grades K-12, adults
  • Injury Prevention 
    • Sports injury prevention, grades K-12, adults
  • Trauma Nurses Talk Tough
    • New drivers ages 15-18
  • Safe Drivers Education
    • Fatal vision goggles
    • High-risk driver
    • Young driver program
  • Senior Programs
    • Driving safer and longer (for seniors 65 and older)
    • Step Smart (falls prevention)

To learn more, contact Syndi Bultman Injury Prevention/Resource Coordinator Trauma Services at 239-343-1617 or email [email protected].

Learn how to help people before, during and after a traumatic event

Lee Health Trauma Care also provides educational classes that provide the community with the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to help people before, during and after trauma. 

June’s events include:

Celebrate CPR Week - Hands-Only CPR

Monday, June 3, 1-2 p.m.
Healthy Life Center - Coconut Point
23450 Via Coconut Pt.
Estero, FL 33928
Get Directions

Join us as we kick off National CPR Week with an informal educational class to learn lifesaving and hands-on CPR skills. This class is for people who want to learn CPR but do not need a CPR course completion card. This course is ideal for community groups, new parents, grandparents, babysitters, and others interested in learning how to save a life. Sign up here.

Stay Cool, Stay Safe: Essential Tips for Preventing Heat Stroke

Monday, June 10, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
WellWay - Cape Coral
609 SE 13th Court
Cape Coral, FL 33990
Get Directions

Florida summertime is the best time! Join us to learn tips and guidelines for heat stroke prevention so you can enjoy a safe summer! Sign up here.

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