Reclaiming His Life
A young dad overcomes trauma with his family’s love and the help of an expert team
Aaron Reynolds doesn’t remember much about the car crash two winters ago that landed him in the hospital for a month. It was late February, and the aviation systems analyst was on his way home from work in Remington, VA, when his Subaru Outback collided with a stoplight in the center of a median. Due to the severity of Aaron’s injuries, he was air-lifted directly to the Inova Trauma Center, 50 miles from the site of the crash.
Upon Aaron’s arrival, he was evaluated with CT scans of most of his body and X-rays of all his extremities to diagnose his extensive injuries.
“Mr. Reynolds had true polytrauma, meaning he had severe injuries in multiple locations on his body,” explains Christopher Michetti, MD, FACS, FCCM, Medical Director of the Trauma Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Director of the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship.
Aaron’s right leg was damaged beyond repair, prohibiting blood flow to the lower part of his leg. Within hours of his arrival, he was immediately transferred to the operating room to have the limb surgically removed. On the left side, his ankle and one of the bones in his foot were fractured.
Despite the complexity and severity of Aaron’s injuries, the trauma team, which cares for up to 2,800 patients each year, was well-equipped to handle every aspect of his care.
“The Trauma Acute Care Division is staffed 24/7 with a team led by a general surgeon with extra training in trauma and surgical critical care,” says Maggie Griffen, MD, FACS. “The surgeon coordinates the patients’ care in collaboration with neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, anesthesiologists, emergency medicine providers, nurses certified in trauma and critical care, respiratory therapists and mental health specialists.” Multiple other subspecialty physicians are also available to assist in patient care as needed.
“We are Northern Virginia’s only Level 1 Trauma Center, meaning we provide the highest level of specialty trauma care and have for the community for over 30 years,” she points out. “All of our surgeons are board-certified and have earned fellowship degrees.”
After Aaron was stabilized, he was transferred to the Trauma ICU for 32 days, during which time he underwent a total of 10 major operations — eight on his extremities and two on his cervical spine. “Patients such as Aaron can get very sick, requiring many treatments and interventions,” comments Erik Teicher, MD, FACS.
The trauma team continued to care for Aaron throughout his entire hospitalization. “Trauma care is reliant on attention and expertise and being ready for any kind of change in situation,” says Dr. Michetti. “We provide the frequency of attention that people need and the level of attention required to get them through some pretty devastating situations.”
Although Aaron was sedated much of the time he spent in the ICU, he remembers being surrounded by his family and a caring staff. “When I came to, I was just slowly trying to figure out what had happened,” says the 35-year-old husband and father of two boys. “Luckily, I had a ton of family and friends around me constantly.”
Soon after he was released from the ICU, Aaron started inpatient rehabilitation at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. Although the going was rough at first, with the guidance of highly trained physical therapists, Aaron slowly worked his way back to normalcy. “I was convinced I would never function normally again, but they told me that I would,” he says. “Everybody at Inova was great.”
In July he began using a prosthesis, and within six months of the injury, Aaron went for a ride on his Harley. “It felt like I had never missed a beat,” he recalls.
Now he’s back to work and no longer needs to use pain medication. The event that changed his life is now just a memory. “I’m at peace with it,” says Aaron. “I would like to let people know that you do adapt, you do bounce back.”
Preventing and Healing Trauma
The Trauma Acute Care Division at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus is a comprehensive program that provides prevention education, acute care and support for patients and their families. “Trauma is the No. 1 healthcare problem in the United States,” says Dr. Griffen. “It’s the No. 1 killer of people ages 1 to 44. Our goal is to prevent injuries.”
The trauma services department works in the community to promote trauma prevention with an emphasis on motor vehicle safety, bike safety, pool safety, car seat safety and fall prevention. It also is an active participant in the national “Stop the Bleed” campaign, which trains the general public to become equipped and empowered to stop life-threatening bleeding emergencies until medical help arrives.
When it comes to treating traumatic injuries, the program offers the highest level of intensive care followed by acute care once a patient is stabilized.
“We take care of the patient from the moment they arrive to the moment we discharge them to home,” says Dr. Griffen.
To find out more about Inova’s Trauma Services, please visit inova.org/trauma.
When Trauma Lingers: Survivor’s Network
To help patients cope with the emotional effects of a traumatic injury, the Inova Fairfax Trauma Acute Care Surgery Division participates in the American Trauma Society’s Trauma Survivors Network. It provides support groups and resources for individuals who are preparing for the recovery ahead or who are suffering from the emotional effects years after an injury.
“The program helps normalize what patients are going through, and they’re able to connect with each other and connect to resources and support,” says Shira Rothberg, LSW, Trauma Survivors Network Coordinator. “We help people who come through our trauma unit, and we also have people coming to us from the community.”
This network also has a peer support program staffed with specially trained trauma survivors who volunteer to provide guidance and support.
If you have experienced a traumatic injury and would like to talk to someone, call the network at 703-776-2274.