Healing beyond the trauma
One man’s story of a life threatening accident and the recovery process that followed
Hattiesburg, Miss. (May 20, 2016)– David Seal remembers enjoying a normal night with his wife, Dena, and son, Elijah. He and his family attended a Wednesday night worship service in July 2015. That evening is the last he remembers until weeks later.
“The night before, I remember being at church and everything – coming home and going to bed. The next thing I know, it’s two or three weeks later, and I have no idea where I am or what happened to me,” he said.
David woke up at Forrest General Hospital three weeks after smashing into the back of a log truck on his way to Jackson, Mississippi, on business. The details of that day, from climbing out of his truck to giving his phone to a stranger to call his wife, all come from bystanders who witnessed the accident first-hand. David has no recollection of that day or the weeks that follow in the Intensive Care Unit, but for Dena that is where the story begins.
Dena had just settled in to watch a movie on the first day of summer vacation when David’s supervisor called to let her know there had been an accident, and her husband was being taken to the hospital. Dena said, “I had a weird feeling. So I called David’s mother, and I called my preacher. I told them both to meet me at the hospital.”
Dena recalls those first moments upon arriving at Forrest General Hospital’s Emergency Department. “I ran to the door to look out when I heard the helicopter. It was amazing to watch the nurses line the hallway, and I saw them wheeling him in. I saw the guy’s arm, and I knew that was my husband’s arm.”
As a certified Level II Trauma Center, Forrest General Hospital provides an immediate organized response by activating a highly specialized team the moment the hospital receives notification of a trauma en route. The people lining the halls, who Dena assumed were nurses, were actually members of the Alpha trauma team. The Alpha team includes a trauma surgeon, an emergency physician, emergency nurses, an emergency technician, a lab technician, radiology technicians, a respiratory therapist, an Anesthesiologist, and the Emergency Department Patient Care Coordinator. The hospital calls this team together when a patient has suffered major trauma or is known to be critically injured. Behind the scenes, preparation for a trauma patient takes place in several other departments. When notification is received, radiology prepares a CT scanner and the operating room prepares a surgical suite especially for the patient before he or she arrives to the emergency room.
"We prepare for our trauma patients as soon as we know about them. EMS notifies us when they’re on the scene or en route to our trauma center which gives us a heads up. We quickly start preparing for that patient. We have a dedicated, highly qualified trauma team that responds immediately to the emergency department trauma bay ready to care for the trauma victim," said Melanie Nunnally, RN, Trauma Program Manager at Forrest General.
For 29 days following the accident, David underwent multiple surgeries, requiring specialized care by surgical and intensive care teams. Dena lived between her home and the Critical Care Unit. She said, “I was one of these people who lived in the waiting room. We have a six-year-old so I went home at night. I would come for the first visit of the day, stay until the six o’clock visit, and then go home and be mom.” Dena says one of the things that helped the most was being constantly informed about David’s condition in a way she could understand.
“When a family member is in an ICU setting, it can be very traumatic for the spouse or other family members to be there especially since they may not understand everything that’s going on. I certainly try to go out of my way to make sure they are informed and up-to-date in terms of what, exactly, is happening with their loved one in the ICU,” said Duncan Donald, M.D., medical director of Surgical and Trauma Services at Forrest General.
After spending time doing physical therapy exercises on the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at Forrest General, David still has a long journey to recovery. He said, “The physical therapists had to teach me how to walk again and taught me how to get my arm to move—that took a lot longer. They were trying to get the range of motion back in my arm. It’s still not 100 percent, but it’s a lot better.”
Although David has been through a whirlwind of physical changes and will face challenges in the future, when asked how this experience had affected him, David said, “I’m a lot more thankful.” He continued, “I thank God every day that I’m still here because I really shouldn’t be. If they hadn’t gotten to me when they did, I wouldn’t have made it. It’s definitely affected me – emotionally and mentally. I’m thankful that I’m still here with my son and my wife.”