KINGSPORT — Despite temperatures in the 30s, Sherry Crase and James Day were glad to be outside on a windy Tuesday afternoon to mark Holston Valley Medical Center’s 20th anniversary as a Tennessee-designated Level I Trauma Center.
After all, Sullivan County resident Crase and Virginia State Police Trooper Day said they are alive today because of the trauma center.
They also participated in the ribbon cutting for the core trauma team’s new “trauma house” across the street from the hospital.
Dr. Cory Siffring, HVMC’s director of trauma services, said the converted home setting is appropriate because team members are there around the clock.
The hospital acquired the home and one next to it and converted them. They replace a smaller facility to be razed for parking.
“If it wasn’t for you guys, I wouldn’t be here today,” Crase told members of the hospital’s trauma team after a video of her ordeal was shown publicly for the first time, including video of trauma surgeon Dr. Kim Hendershot evaluating and treating Crase.
Sharon Littleton, the hospital’s trauma program manager and an employee for 21 years, said Rosalee Sites, the first director of trauma services at HVMC, and Drs. Steve Wilson, Michael Stein and William Hudson, were forward thinking when they worked for the trauma center designation.
Before that, patients with multiple serious injuries used to be transported to Knoxville or Chattanooga, too long a trip for some patients to survive.
“If you don’t have a Level I Trauma Center, one-third more people will die than needed — one-third,” Siffring said.
Crase recalled that on Sept. 6, 2007, she and her sister were going to their father’s funeral when their car was T-boned at the intersection of County Home Road and State Route 126 in Blountville as she pulled out.
“I barely remember the helicopter coming,” said Crase, who added that she sort of remembers emergency workers cutting the roof off her car.
Crase, a mother of three, spent four months at the Wellmont Health System hospital. She suffered injuries including bone fractures, a diaphragm injury, bruised spleen, pelvic fracture, a torn aorta and infection. She was fed through a tube.
Her sister was injured less seriously and also recovered after treatment at the Level II Trauma Center at Bristol Regional Medical Center, another Wellmont facility.
“The level of sophisticated care that Holston Valley offers to this community is usually present only in communities of half a million people or more,” Siffring said. “The fact that we have a hospital that’s willing to dedicate resources normally reserved for a population of 10 times this size is unusual.”
Mountain States Health Alliance’s Johnson City Medical Center also is a Level I Trauma Center.
Day, a trooper for 21 years, met the trauma team after finding himself on a stretcher instead of helping load one.
“After loading people for many years, I was loaded in an ambulance,” Day said.
His injuries occurred as he was riding his personal motorcycle off duty Sept. 27, 2005, when he said a woman pulled her vehicle in front of him.
Day spent two weeks in HVMC’s intensive care unit, 21 days at Select Specialty Hospital in Bristol, and two weeks at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Kingsport before going back home to Scott County.
“I walked out of there carrying the walker,” Day said. “I can’t thank these people here enough. They saved my life.”
He was off work six months.
Jim Moore, vice president of facilities for the hospital, said the new emergency department is 70 percent larger than the existing facility, with three bays 50 percent larger than existing ones. It also will have a dedicated entrance and two critical care elevators connecting to operating rooms, the Regional Heart Center, recovery rooms, intensive care units and ICU step-down units.
Those amenities are part of HVMC’s $110 million Project Platinum, scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2010.
For more information visit www.wellmont.org.