R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center Celebrates Heroes Who Come Together to Provide Lifesaving Care to Criticially Injured Patients
September 10, 2022
The R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) hosted on Saturday its 32nd annual Shock Trauma Heroes Celebration, honoring more than 40 trauma professionals and first responders who worked together to save the life of a 51-year-old highway construction worker who nearly bled to death when his legs were crushed after a car struck him on I-95 and pinned him against his truck.
The theme of the celebration, Come Together—the title of a well-known Beatles song, highlights the extraordinary working relationship between Shock Trauma and its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) partners that has made Maryland’s unique, highly coordinated trauma system a national model. It also recognizes the philanthropic support that enables Shock Trauma to continue to make important advancements in trauma care and remain one of the leading trauma centers in the world.
Shock Trauma is Maryland’s highest-level trauma center—a primary adult resource center, or PARC, where clinicians treat almost 6,000 critically ill and severely injured patients a year with a 96 percent survival rate.
“One of my greatest privileges over the last 25 years is having the opportunity to work alongside our extraordinary trauma care teams and our remarkable partners within Maryland’s EMS system,” said Thomas M. Scalea, MD, the Honorable Francis X. Kelly Distinguished Professor of Trauma Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and Shock Trauma’s physician-in-chief. “Every day, these courageous men and women navigate unique and complex challenges. They do so without hesitation and at times, even risking their own health and wellbeing to save the life of another.” Dr. Scalea also serves as System Chief of Critical Care Services for the 11-hospital University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS).
The event, which was held at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, also celebrated Dr. Scalea’s 25 years of service to Shock Trauma. Dr. Scalea first took the helm of the world-renowned trauma center and UMSOM’s Program in Trauma on Jan. 4, 1997. The Beatles theme pays homage to Dr. Scalea, a longtime fan of the British rock band.
Funds from this year’s celebration will benefit Shock Trauma’s Trauma Prevention and Recovery programs. These programs include Stop the Bleed training and adult and teen education on risky behavior such as impaired and distracted driving. The focus this coming year is to enhance the ability to provide widespread Stop the Bleed training throughout the state of Maryland. Donations to the program can be made through the UMMS Foundation.
“Despite the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic placed on our ability to run many of our programs, we continued to hold 104 events that reached more than 6,200 people last fiscal year. Education is vital to reducing preventable trauma in Maryland and beyond,” said Kristie Snedeker, DPT, vice president of the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.
Those who attended the celebration heard the extraordinary story of Amilcar Mendez, of Beltsville, who was seriously injured on Feb. 15, 2020, as he worked on a construction project on the northbound lanes of I-95 near Perryville. He was struck by a car and “sandwiched” between the car and his truck, nearly amputating his legs. Within three minutes of the 911 call, Maryland State Police troopers from the JFK Highway Barrack arrived at the scene. Using their Stop the Bleed training, they applied tourniquets to help stop the bleeding in Mendez’s legs and stabilized him before a Maryland State Police medevac helicopter transported him to Shock Trauma.
Bleeding to Death
“Mr. Mendez was one of the sickest people and most injured people I've ever seen when he got to Shock Trauma,” recalled Margaret H. Lauerman, MD, an assistant professor of surgery at UMSOM and an attending surgeon at the trauma center. Dr. Scalea added, “He lost a huge amount of blood from his legs. So, with the combination of his abdominal hemorrhage, pelvic hemorrhage and extremity hemorrhage, he had essentially bled to death when he got here.”
Mendez received a massive blood transfusion with more than 40 units of red blood cells, plasma and platelets. In addition to his leg injuries, he had fractures in his pelvis, rib and back, along with injuries to his colon and a torn ureter leading from a kidney to his bladder. Using mesh, doctors rebuilt his abdominal wall. Surgeons were not able to save Mendez’s legs, which were then amputated above the knee. He had 12 surgeries within 25 days.
When Mendez woke up in the hospital after the crash, he was initially overwhelmed emotionally, but then thought of his family. “I started thinking that there is a reason why God gave me a second chance,” he said.
After spending 50 days at Shock Trauma, Mendez was transferred in April 2020 to the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute, where he received therapy until he was discharged two months later on June 16. A married father of three children, ages 14, 10 and 9 years old, Mendez is able to walk again with the help of prostheses.
“We went to the gym, we started doing some exercise and they were so nice to me. I can't explain, but they changed my mentality,” Mendez said.
Melita M.Theyagaraj, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at UMSOM and medical director of the multi-trauma unit at the UM Rehabilitation & Orthopaedics Institute, said, “Even though he was afraid about what was going to happen, what the future would look like, how his family would view him, he always had such a positive attitude. And I think that was half the battle right there.”
“I am happy to be here,” Mendez said, reflecting on his journey. “There are no words to say, ‘Thank you’ for the job they did. I feel comfortable. I feel great.”
Tyler Adams, a Cecil County paramedic who was on the scene of the crash, said, “Every agency involved really came together to save Mr. Mendez's life.”
‘A Remarkable Victory’
Dr. Scalea said he did not know how many individual health care providers had cared for Mendez during his 50-day stay at Shock Trauma, “but if you told me it was a thousand, I wouldn’t be surprised.” He called Mendez’s recovery “a remarkable victory.”
Forty-three heroes were honored, including Maryland State Police troopers, Cecil County EMS clinicians and Shock Trauma physicians, nurses and staff who cared for Mendez. The celebration included “then and now” video updates on four former Shock Trauma patients and a video highlighting Dr. Scalea’s many accomplishments as a surgeon, physician-scientist, educator and mentor. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will perform a selection of Beatles songs.
Dr. Scalea said of his milestone anniversary, “When I look at what we have been able to accomplish over the past 25 years, I can truly say that we have changed the face of injury care in the world.”
Also featured during the evening was a tribute video of past patients whose lives Dr. Scalea helped saved.
He came to Maryland from New York City, where he served as Chief of Critical Care and Trauma and Founding Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Kings County Hospital/SUNY Brooklyn. “I planned to live and die in New York City and didn’t really plan to move to Baltimore,” he recalled. “But when I got the opportunity, I hesitated zero seconds and said, ‘Yes’, because it’s Shock Trauma. It’s as good as it gets. When you do what I do, this is the best job in the country, maybe the world.”
If you would like to support the lifesaving care provided by our incredible teams at Shock Trauma, visit ummsfoundation.org/giving_stc.