Trauma Staff Offers Lifeline for Families

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By Alice Reid
Friday, January 18, 2008

Among the many heartfelt notes of gratitude that have come our way along with contributions to Children's Hospital was one that prompted a double take.

"Thank you for saving my granddaughter's life TWICE," it read.

Whoa! A kid who skated close to death not once but twice? A little journalistic sleuthing found the granddaughter, Lindsey Gordon, now 21.

Not only had Children Hospital's rescued her from osteomyelitis, a serious staph infection of the bone, when she was 4, but doctors and nurses there also saved her life after she suffered grave injuries in a car crash in 1995. With a broken leg, ruptured stomach and a hole in her aorta, Lindsey wasn't expected to live. Today, she is a healthy senior at UCLA, close to earning a bachelor's degree in English literature.

"I'm just really grateful," Lindsey said recently by phone, adding that she doesn't remember a whole lot about the experience.

She said her mom still talks about Jean Reardon, who was the family's trauma coordinator, always there to run interference with the half-dozen doctors treating Lindsey, translate medical gobbledygook, and help her and other anxious parents communicate with hospital staff members.

Reardon has gone on to a research project at the hospital, but the role of trauma coordinator still exists, with two nurses handling the duties. A third nurse fills a similar post solely for burn patients. It's all part of the hospital's trauma and burn service division, which also tracks statistics about injuries and treatment.

Youngsters made about 71,000 visits to the emergency room at Children's Hospital last year, and about 12,000 were classified as trauma cases, many of which required surgery and inpatient care. That's when the trauma coordinators become lifelines for families.

Nurse Sarah Storing coordinates patients' time in the emergency room and monitors how quickly staffers there provide treatment. Top-rated trauma centers such as Children's Hospital must demonstrate that they perform at a consistently high level.

"Trauma is related to time," she said. "For instance, they have to insert an IV catheter within five minutes."

Storing also helps parents understand what is going on in the emergency room and encourages them to stay beside their injured children, even holding their hands through difficult procedures.

"Whatever they're comfortable with," she said.

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© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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