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Memorial fishing tourney to benefit trauma center

By Staff | Jul 17, 2010

Lee Memorial’s Trauma Center has benefited over the last five years from a annual fishing tournament scheduled for next weekend.
The eighth annual David Lee Root Jr. Memorial Fishing Tournament is on Saturday, July 24, near D&D Matlacha Bait and Tackle on Pine Island. Not only does it attract more than 150 anglers competing to catch the biggest fish, but all of the proceeds benefit the only trauma center between Miami and Tampa Bay.
David Root, co-owner of the tackle store and tournament organizer, said he wants the event to be enjoyable for all who participate.
“Just come out and have a good time,” he said. “We try to raise as much money as we can, but we want people to come out and have a good time.”
Root, and his wife Debbie, started the tournament after their 19-year-old son David died as the result of a car accident on July 4, 2001. Even though David was considered a trauma patient, paramedics rushed him to Cape Coral Hospital fearing he couldn’t make it to Fort Myers.
Those who work in trauma are familiar with the term “golden hour.” It has become a doctor’s rule of thumb that if a patient isn’t treated within an hour after their trauma, they are less likely to make a full recovery. And therefore, trauma medics focus on getting a patient treated as fast as possible.
Unfortunately, the Root’s misfortunes didn’t end with David. Not long after David’s death, his younger brother Dustin was involved in a car accident in Punta Gorda when he was 15 years old. Dustin was airlifted to the trauma center at Lee Memorial Hospital and although he was in a coma for a few weeks, made a full recovery.
Shortly after David’s death, the Root family organized the first fishing tournament, which benefitted the Pine Island Fire Department, to honor their son.
“He was always helping people, he was planning on starting fire school to be a fireman or paramedic. He would have started that one month after the accident,” said Root.
Three years later they decided that Lee Memorial’s Trauma Center would be the new beneficiary.
Each year the tournament raises between $13,000 and $17,000 for the trauma center. Root said $25,000 has already been collected this year from donors and sponsors, including a large contributions from the main sponsors, Sam Galloway Auto and Bass Pro Shop.
Duane Higgins, director of Major Gifts for the Lee Memorial Heath System Foundation, said the substantial increase in collections is a result of major sponsors and $250 lifesaving sponsorships. These are new types of contributions made by people who aren’t interested in fishing, but want to help the trauma center.
“This is the only event that supports the trauma center at Lee Memorial Hospital,” said Higgins. “It’s not some place you want to go visit, but you are sure glad it is there if you need it.”
Although the trauma center is vital to healthcare in Southwest Florida, it’s not supported by any taxes or revenue. Instead, it’s funded by what patients pay and by philanthropic events like the fishing tournament. In 2009, the center had a $4 million shortfall because many patients couldn’t afford treatment or didn’t have insurance.
“The care that is provided is regardless of their ability to pay,” said Higgins.
Anglers will pay $50 to participate on July 24 and have choices as to where they can fish during the tournament.
Michael Marcus, trauma program manager at Lee Memorial Health System, said the center uses the proceeds to purchase new medical equipment or initiate a special project. He said the center has no discretionary funds other than what is collected through donations.
The Lee Memorial Trauma Center is a Level II state approved program that first opened in 1994. Certain features — surgeons, trauma teams, respiratory technicians, imaging equipment or social services, for example — are made available to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, meaning that patients who are designated as “trauma alerts” receive immediate care and have precedence over other less severely injured patients.
Recently, the center was able to purchase portable equipment to perform bed side tracheostomy with donated funds. Patients are benefitting from this new equipment because they were previously transferred to other units to receive a tracheostomy.
“Anytime you transfer a patient, whether from outside the hospital or in, or inside the hospital to another department, there is always risks associated with that transfer,” said Marcus. “And that decreases the risk to the patient.”
Last year the trauma center treated 2,000 patients, approximately 1,000 of which were trauma alerts or more serious cases. And all of these patients live in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry or Glades counties. Marcus said the vast majority of trauma patients were involved in a motor vehicle accident — for patients over the age of 65 the main cause of trauma is a fall.
Marcus said motorists need to become less distracted with texts or phone calls while driving to prevent accidents and new trauma patients.
“Distracted driving plays a large role in motor vehicle collisions,” he said.
A significant change to this year’s tournament is the use of digital cameras to track fish sizes. The tournament is catch and release, and for the first time anglers are asked to immediately photograph their fish and throw it back, instead of placing it in a bucket and carrying it to the judges table.
For more information on the tournament, visit www.davidleerootmemorial.com.