Shock Trauma Center Celebrates the Dedication and Expertise of Maryland's Emergency Care Providers

For immediate release: April 20, 2009


Cindy Rivers

[email protected] | 410-328-8778

Sharon Boston

[email protected] | 410-328-8919

Nearly 100 people will receive “Hero Awards” at this year’s University of Maryland Shock Trauma Gala for their roles in the rescue and lifesaving care of two Maryland residents. At the gala, on April 25 at the Baltimore Convention Center, the dramatic stories of these patients will be told in detail, showing the unique coordination between the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center and Maryland’s EMS system.

The first patient to be profiled at the gala is a Reisterstown teenager who was impaled in the throat by a fence post after a motor vehicle crash. The second patient to be featured is a 41-year-old Crofton man who collided with a tree while riding his bicycle and suffered massive internal injuries, including rupturing his heart. In one of the evening’s most dramatic moments, these survivors will come on stage to thank their heroes personally.

“The gala’s Hero Awards show just how many people it takes to save one life,” says Thomas Scalea, M.D., physician-in-chief at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, and the Francis X. Kelly Professor of Trauma Surgery and the director of the Program in Trauma at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“These 97 heroes include emergency dispatchers, firefighters, EMS providers, Maryland State Police Aviation Command personnel, nurses, physicians, technicians and rehabilitation specialists. They all do amazing work, and the gala is our opportunity to acknowledge their medical expertise and tireless dedication to treating Maryland’s most critically injured patients,” says Dr. Scalea.

One of those patients is 18-year-old Robby Smith, whose story will be dramatically retold at the gala using photos, interviews and actual recordings of the conversations between the trauma center and paramedics in the field. While driving home on a winding road in December 2007, Smith swerved to miss an on-coming car, sending his vehicle into a split rail fence.

When Baltimore County paramedics arrived, they found the teenager impaled with a foot-long fence post sticking out of his throat.  Following the delicate efforts to extricate him from his car, a Maryland State Police Medevac team flew Smith to the UM Shock Trauma Center.  Physicians and nurses were astonished that Smith was awake and alert. They suspected that the sheer size of the post and the amount of pressure it was exerting on Smith’s body may have saved his life. Otherwise, they believed, he would almost certainly have bled to death.

Because of the precarious situation, for the first time ever, a paramedic had to come into the operating room holding the patient – it was too dangerous for him to let go. Several others on the medical team also had to cradle Smith, so the post would not move.  During a delicate surgery, the team used a special orthopaedic saw to remove the post.

Smith required many units of blood, but he survived.  However, just a few days later, doctors had to amputate his arm. After many days of uncertainty, Smith began to improve. He was able to move to Kernan Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation Hospital just 36 days after the crash.  He has since graduated from Franklin High School and is pursuing a career in computer science.

“Fifty-four people will receive Hero Awards at the gala for their roles in saving Robby Smith. As his case shows, one person cannot do it alone; it takes a team of well-coordinated medical experts to save a trauma patient,” says John Spearman, former vice president of the Shock Trauma Center who is now senior vice president of external affairs for the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The second case to be highlighted at the gala is the story of Tony Damico, who collided with a tree while riding his bicycle on Crofton Parkway, possibly because of a seizure. The blow knocked him unconscious. Anne Arundel County paramedics who arrived on scene recognized that, with a head injury and increasing blood pressure, Damico was going into shock.

A Medevac helicopter team flew Damico to the UM Shock Trauma Center, where he was rushed into the operating room. Immediately, the surgeons saw that Damico’s spleen was severely injured and had to be removed. But they soon discovered another life-threatening problem: the Anne Arundel County man’s heart had ruptured. They quickly worked to rebuild his heart.

Damico spent nearly 200 days at Shock Trauma before he began intensive rehabilitation at Kernan Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation Hospital. His recovery was not easy; he had multiple setbacks and was readmitted to Shock Trauma for an infection in his lower leg. He also needed additional surgery to remove his gallbladder and reconstruct his abdomen. However, Damico continued to improve. Today, he is riding a new specialized bicycle and aspires to ride 30-40 miles a day, as he once did.

“The perseverance of these trauma patients and their caregivers is truly inspiring. The gala gives us a chance to honor their courage and to thank the dedicated trauma doctors, nurses and other staff, as well as the thousands of emergency medical service providers throughout the state, who do everything they can to help these patients recover," says Jeffrey A. Rivest, president and chief executive officer of the University of Maryland Medical Center.

“The expertise of the Shock Trauma faculty, staff and their EMS partners is world-renowned. Marylanders should feel confident in the knowledge that our trauma center and EMS providers are simply the best,” adds E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, vice president for medical affairs, University of Maryland, and dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Reece is also a member of the EMS board.

More than 1,700 people are expected to attend the gala, which will be held from 6:00 pm until midnight on April 25 at the Baltimore Convention Center.  Tickets are $350 per person and include cocktails, a seated dinner, live music and dancing. Funds raised at the gala benefit patient care services at Shock Trauma and will also be used to upgrade operating rooms and intensive care units.


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