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Trauma survivors, families raise money for outreach

By Staff | Nov 7, 2011

Trauma survivors, families and friends gathered at Friendship Bowling Lanes Saturday afternoon to raise money for a new outreach program begun by survivors and families more than a year ago.

The Trauma Center at Lee Memorial Hospital treats more than 2,000 patients per year from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties. For the greatest chance of survival, treatment must begin within the Golden Hour – 60 minutes – after the accident occurs.

“We try to keep it here at home and keep it easy for families,” Trauma Outreach Coordinator Kathy Wecher said, but sometimes kids have to be sent to Tampa depending on the trauma.

Approximately a year and a half ago the trauma outreach services began informally in the trauma intensive care unit due to a vision the trauma director had, she said.

Trauma survivors and family members gathered to form a program that reaches out to others who are experiencing what they went through. The group meets once a month to plan what they want to do to help others.

“It was the next phase of what we needed to do,” she said about the outreach program.

Wecher said it was time to start taking care of the second trauma the family.

“We are handling the families coming in and not knowing what to expect,” she said.

Those services now being offered include peer mentors, support groups, comfort bags, community awareness and outreach, along with the chance for trauma patients to share their stories.

Nancy Woodbury attended the bowlathon Saturday afternoon with her family because she became a mentor with her son.

“I wanted to be a part of the mentoring team,” she said.

The outreach program, Woodbury said, is to help families with whatever they need, along with providing them resources for when their loved ones are released from the hospital.

The Woodbury family was faced with a traumatic experience 13 years ago. Her son was on his way to high school at 8 a.m. in the rain, when he was hit and forced across the median of I-75.

“It’s worse than you could imagine,” Woodbury said about the experience and the phone call she received.

Now, her son is doing great, working and living on his own.

“I find it absolutely inspiring. I’m in awe,” Wecher said about the survivors and family members she has grown to know. “They don’t complain, they are very positive and they embrace life. They are phenomenal.”

A major help to families when they are brought to the trauma center are the comfort bags provided to them. She said they are great because a lot of times parents are called in the middle of the night and rush to the hospital without grabbing items.

Some of those items include handmade travel pillows and comfort quilts, along with toiletry items. A writing journal and pen, snacks and playing cards or puzzle books are also in the comfort bags.

Many of the trauma survivors participated in the bowling games on Saturday, along with watching the half a dozen or so games taking place. One thing all the survivors had in common who attended the event was the drive to live life to its fullest while inspiring others to disregard the trivial things that happen on a daily basis.

Dan Robbins, a motorcycle trauma survivor, spent the afternoon bowling with family and friends. In January he decided to go for a motorcycle ride on a Sunday afternoon in Bonita Springs that ended with him being flown to the trauma center.

Robbins said he went around a corner too fast and crashed into a wall.

“The collision crushed my legs beyond repair,” he said.

For the next seven days he was in an induced coma in the intensive care unit. Robbins went through seven surgeries, which included his parents making the decision of amputating both of his legs.

“Every day I have to set a new goal,” he said about taking his progress step-by-step. “You’re constantly challenging yourself.”

Before Robbins received his prosthetics three months after his accident he was restricted to a wheelchair. He said he has had a pretty fast recovery.

The outreach program has been helpful because he has had the opportunity to meet other people involved in a trauma, he said, adding he feels more comfortable at times while interacting with the group because they know what he has been through.

His next goal is to become a mentor to others who are trauma survivors.

“Offering support to others means a lot,” Robbins said smiling.

When out in public he talks to children all the time because they are curious about his prosthetics. Robbins said having conversations with others alerts people on how important the trauma center is to Lee County.

EMS Medstar helicopter pilot Diana Tackett has gone through seven orthopedic surgeries since her accident in August 2009. She and her two crew members were on their way out to get a patient on the upper Captiva Island when they hit the water at 90 mph at 12:30 a.m.

Once she discovered that the helicopter was upside down in the water, Tackett said all of her training instantly came back.

She took off her seatbelt and got to the door.

The three member crew spent between 30-40 minutes on the belly of the helicopter waiting for a crew to come and rescue them.

“Your life changes in a matter of seconds,” Tackett said. “When it happens to you, you think wow. Then I realized that I’m alive, and I’m all good.”

In addition to the surgeries, she also suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, which she said she overcomes on a daily basis because it is all about living in the moment.

She spent 23 years flying a helicopter for EMS in Missouri and Lee County before retiring about a week ago. She also flew helicopters in the Army.

The job was rewarding because she was able to save lives, she said.

“Most rewarding job to have as a helicopter pilot because you’re making a difference,” Tackett said.

She hopes to become a mentor for the program because there are a lot of people out there that could use a helping hand or someone to talk to.

The event Saturday was the first bowlathon the group has held. They hope to hold one every year.