Vacuum-Assisted Soft Tissue Dressing Helps Save the Lives of Multiple-Injury Car Crash Victims
L-R: Rebecca Nimmich, Tom Scalea, MD, and Lizzie Nimmich in a Red Cross advertisement for blood donation.
On a crisp evening in October, Mrs. Mary Nimmich received a telephone call from a trauma resuscitation nurse, telling her that her two teenage daughters, Rebecca and Elizabeth, were admitted to the Shock Trauma Center with multiple injuries resulting from an automobile crash. Mrs. Nimmich was asked to consent verbally for physicians to perform emergency surgery on both of her critically injured daughters.
Rebecca, 17, was driving, and her 14-year-old sister, Lizzie, was the front seat passenger; both were wearing their seatbelts. Their vehicle was struck head-on by a one-ton pickup truck. Three rescue units responded to the scene in an attempt to extricate the girls from the badly mangled car. After quick assessment by the ground medic unit, it was decided that a Maryland State Police med-evac was needed to quickly airlift the girls to Shock Trauma.
Upon arrival at the Trauma Resuscitation Unit, it was determined that both girls had sustained life-threatening abdominal injuries. Rebecca’s liver was repaired and her gall bladder removed. She received six units of blood within a short period of time, and subsequently visited the blood bank 138 additional times. Lizzie had sustained a severe laceration to her liver and her spleen had burst. A new technique, known as vacuum-assisted soft tissue dressing, was applied to the abdomens of both girls.
Vacuum-assisted soft tissue dressing, used to promote wound healing, consists of a sterile, open-foam cell dressing that is cut to conform to and fill a wound. The foam is sealed to the wound by an adhesive dressing and an evacuation tube is applied to the foam. The other end of the evacuation tube is attached to a pump so that negative pressure can be applied uniformly to all tissue within the wound. The foam can stay in place for several days, which helps to decrease the pain associated with dressing changes.
After a 35-day stay at Shock Trauma, the sisters were discharged to a rehabilitation center. When asked recently how the girls were doing, Mrs. Nimmich said, “There is no doubt in my mind that without the endless, tireless efforts of the physicians and nurses, my daughters would not be alive today. I admire their openness, honesty and kindness. I am – and will forever remain – indebted to them.” Today, both girls are living normal lives.