AUSTIN, Texas – (June 23, 2015) – It was almost a year ago when Lori Brandes was settling in on a Sunday night, preparing for the work week ahead, and she received a “trauma alert” on her mobile phone.
She wasn’t surprised.
“My phone is on the paging list and my boss was out of town, so I paid a little more attention. I wondered if there was anything I needed to do,” recalled Brandes, director of Clinical Quality and Operational Effectiveness at two Ascension Seton hospitals, University Medical Center Brackenridge and Dell Ascension Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas.
She was shocked 15 minutes later.
A UMC Brackenridge social worker called to say Brandes’ daughter, Madison, had just been in a car accident and was unconscious at the hospital.
Lori thought her daughter, a recent high school graduate, was downstairs in their Austin home with three friends in the living room, where she had told her goodnight earlier.
But the four girls had departed, driving to a nearby restaurant for milkshakes – and getting hit by a drunk driver.
All the girls were transported to UMC Brackenridge, Central Texas’ only Level I trauma center. Madison, who was in the front passenger seat, sustained severe head injuries.
“Immediately I thought, ‘Who do I know at the hospital? Who can I call while we’re en route? Who could tell me more about Madison? Who was caring for her?'” Lori recalled. “I’d only been at UMCB for a few months, and there were so many clinical staff I had never engaged with.”
Upon arriving in the emergency room, Lori noticed how busy and focused medical team members were in caring for her daughter. Among them was Dr. James Rose, neurosurgeon with the Ascension Seton Brain and Spine Institute, who explained to Lori and her husband James that their daughter needed immediate surgery to relieve bleeding and pressure inside her skull.
Rose anticipated that, upon completion of the first surgery, a second would be needed on the other side of her head.
“With brain injuries, we usually anticipate and treat what I call the second accident,” Rose said. “After the brain has been injured, secondary injuries such as blood clots and swelling present themselves. In Madison’s case, as soon as we removed one clot, another would develop.”
Rose’s prediction proved accurate, Madison required a second surgery, then a third surgery. In the process, part of Madison’s skull was removed to accommodate the brain swelling. Finally, the bleeding stopped and, slowly, the swelling went away.
Lori’s workplace became Madison’s healing place. After 10 days, Madison needed a tracheotomy. After it was performed, she quickly began following commands and communicating. At her bedside throughout were her parents and brother, Bradley.
But on June 9, Madison walked into UMC Brackenridge with her family for Ascension Seton’s annual Trauma Survivors Reunion, which brings together trauma patients, their families, friends and other loved ones with the doctors, nurses and other medical providers who treated their injuries – and often saved their lives.
For the trauma staff, it’s a rare opportunity to see how well some of their patients recovered. Usually, once a patient is treated and goes to a hospital room, they don’t get a chance to see the results of their emergency efforts.
The only memory Madison has from her time at UMC Brackenridge is walking in the hallway with her physical therapist. Lori, however, has many comforting memories.
“Madison’s recovery would have been so much harder without the kindness and compassion of my colleagues,” Lori said. “Many Ascension Seton employees , even those not directly caring for Madison, asked us how she was doing, how we were doing, and did we need anything. Everyone went above and beyond for us.”
Madison, who was accepted into Texas Tech University in the fall of 2014, had to wait a year, but she’s enrolled in classes for the upcoming fall 2015 semester.
Recovering at home, Madison got a new puppy. Its name?
Gracie Rose – for the grace of God that allowed Madison to survive her accident and for the Ascension Seton neurosurgeon who treated her.
“I am so thankful for the care we were given and so thankful we have a Level 1 Trauma Center in Austin,” Lori said. “I know Madison is alive because of prayer and the team of professionals at UMC Brackenridge.”