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Crash survivor reunites with those who saved her life

Posted on Feb 21, 2013 ( comments)

Nine months ago, Sarah Davis wasn’t breathing.

She lay bloodied and broken, thrown from her car that was smashed by a speeding Ford F-350 pickup in East Pierce County.

The 18 year old was bleeding internally, her pelvis was fractured in five places and she had deep lacerations across her face, arms and legs.

“The crash was one of the worst I’d ever seen,” said Jason Cancro, an EMT with East Pierce Fire & Rescue, who was among the first to respond to the scene May 15. “We were surprised she was alive.”

Sarah was brought to the Emergency Department at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, where, one by one, employees at the hospital sprang into action. As they worked to save her life, they began to have an immediate and meaningful effect on Sarah and her family.

On Tuesday morning, nine months after the crash, Sarah returned to Tacoma General to meet with many of the people who helped her along her road to recovery.

Sarah Davis 1

Sarah and her family sat on a stage. While the timeline of Sarah’s treatment was recited, each employee who played a role in Sarah’s treatment and recovery walked up and stood behind Sarah and her family.

“It was overwhelming,” Sarah said afterward. “It was nice to see how many people took care of me. It was nice to see how much they care, even outside of their jobs, and how much compassion they have for each patient.”

First onstage were the EMT’s who brought her to Tacoma General, then the housekeepers who cleaned and prepared her room in the Emergency Department, followed by the trauma physician and physician assistant, and the nurses who helped stabilize her. Other employees soon followed, met with applause. 

One by one, the growing circle of support brought tears to Sarah’s parents and many in the audience.

"It was overwhelming to think that my whole world was in the hands of strangers, and to know that they would be so compassionate and caring for my child," said Jackie Hogge, Sarah's mother. "Even though Sarah was asleep the first eight days, I remember every minute."

Sarah Davis 2

In all, more than 50 people played a role in Sarah’s lifesaving treatment and recovery.

“It was impressive how many people were involved,” said Dr. Long Duc Tran, with Tacoma Trauma Center, who treated Sarah when she arrived in the Emergency Department at Tacoma General. “It was amazing to see how well she looked. For how broken she was, I thought it would be a long time before she was whole again. But a big part of her recovery was because her attitude was incredible.”

Back on May 15, when Sarah first arrived in the Emergency Department at Tacoma General, her family was told to take it “one hour at a time.”

Sarah Davis 3

She underwent multiple surgeries – six in one week during the first harrowing days after the accident. She had to learn how to walk again. Eat again. Shower. Thirteen days after the accident, she went home. Less than two weeks after her discharge, she was able to graduate with her class at Cascade Christian High School. Today, she is a freshman at Pacific Lutheran University, studying to be a nurse.

Sarah Davis


Below is the story that was read Tuesday. It details Sarah’s road to recovery, and the people she met along the way:

Today, we want to share Sarah’s story with you, along with the many people who played a role in her care. Our goal today is to understand how every person in our system comes into contact with a patient and their family, and how together we make an impression.

We’d like to start with Sarah. She is 18 years old. At the time of the accident, which took place on the evening of May 15, she was getting ready to finish up her senior year at Cascade Christian High School. She just celebrated her senior year prom the week before. On the night of the accident, she was leaving her boyfriend’s house in East Pierce County.

She doesn’t remember the moment when a speeding 2001 F-350 pickup slammed into her 2003 Ford Mustang.

She does not remember being thrown from the car. Sarah was taken to the Tacoma General Trauma Center by East Pierce County Fire & Rescue Medics Richard White, Jason Cancro and Tyler Hall.

Meanwhile at the Trauma Center, Ed Nabua and Yolanda King of Environmental Services were working that night, keeping the place clean, and stacked with linens. It was a steady night at the Trauma Center, not too busy.

The call came in from EMS that a patient was arriving in critical condition.

Dr. Long Duc Tran and PA Ralph Mitchell of the Tacoma Trauma Center were on duty that night.

The EMT’s drove Sarah to Tacoma General as fast as they could. When she arrived, she was scared for her life and screaming in pain. She was bleeding profusely, her vital signs were unstable, her jaw was deformed, and she was covered with deep lacerations. RNs Laura Ude, Marci Caley, and RT Christy Burkhart worked to stabilize Sarah and prep her for the OR.

Dr. Philip Bouterse and Dr. Forrest Rue were her anesthesiologists.

Dr. Jason Jacobs and Dr. Tod Wurst were her radiologists.

Amy Imhof-Harris was her radiology nurse that night.

Sarah’s time in the Trauma Center was intense, fast and busy. They were working to save her life. At one point, Sarah stopped breathing, and staff worked fast to get her an intubation tube to revive her. She stabilized enough to go into the OR to treat her internal injuries. When she left the OR and Trauma Center that night and headed to the ICU, Laura Ude said Sarah got a second chance at life.

“We never forgot her,” Ude said.

Lori Van Syke and Laura Woods were the social workers who helped the Davis family.

Kelly Bowman was the nurse care manager, who began working with the Davis family in ICU. She helped arrange the home care, equipment, follow-up appointments and transportation home.

Some of Sarah’s initial ICU nurses were Richard Howell, Liz Gannetta and April Lantz.

Dr. Thomas Ferrer of the Tacoma Trauma Center replaced Dr. Tran after a very long night.

Vitaliy Myshlenik was the housekeeper at the ICU the next day.

Gina MCarthy, Gina Reale were her respiratory therapists

During most of her time with us, Sarah stayed in the ICU at Tacoma General. And on occasion she was afraid. One of her nurses, April knew this. She comforted Sarah, telling her she would stay by her side. And sure enough the next time Sarah awoke, she found April sitting next to her, just as she said she would, and Sarah fell back asleep.

Sujata Anantharaman and Erin Lind were her clinical dietitians.

Lauren Webb, Ken Dicks, Alesya Dragan were her pharmacists.

Talking was not possible for Sarah because her jaw was broken. So Laura Woods helped the family establish a communication line, so Sarah wouldn’t feel frustrated or anxious.

Dr. Christopher Savage was her anesthesiologist for subsequent surgery.

Dr. Ryan Will was her orthopedic surgeon.

Kathleen DePew was her OR RN.

Christine Wea was the ARNP for the Wound Care team.

Sarah was fortunate she did not have a spinal or head injury, which would have slowed her recovery. At this time, her blood and fluid levels were beginning to stabilize. Two days after the accident, she underwent surgeries to repair her internal injuries and her torn knee. Her broken pelvis would be repaired soon after.

During this time, the family was staying at Tree House, represented by Sheila Richardson.

At times, more than 35 family and friends packed the ICU waiting area to hear of news. They prayed all the time.

Jane Ashe was the chaplain for the family, and stayed and prayed with them.

The ICU staff encouraged family and friends to decorate Sarah’s room, to help create a healing environment, and soon, Sarah’s room was plastered with photos and cards and hand-written signs and posters. The goodwill soon covered the walls of the ICU room.

On May 17, Pauline Meloche was her radiology RN.

On May 18, Dr. Paul Mathews placed a nasal intubation tube to allow for Sarah’s jaw surgery.

Dr. Mansour Shirbacheh performed surgery to fix her jaw, nasal fractures and facial wounds.

Dr. Keith Mayo repaired her pelvis.

Family friend and Radiology nurse Debbie Stevenson came by often to support the family. Debbie’s daughter is good friends with Sarah. Debbie helped the family set up a Caring Bridge account, found extra pillows for the family to rest in the ICU, and stopped by any extra moment she had.

By May 20, 5 days after the car accident, it became apparent Sarah was going to make a full recovery.

May 25 was a big day and the turning point for Sarah. She got to eat! By now, she weighs less than 100 pounds. She sits on a chair – another first – to sip down a strawberry protein shake. And that day, Liz, one of her ICU nurses, spent an hour to painstakingly remove each and every tiny stitch from Sarah’s face. Sarah’s family left the room to give them the space and time to do this procedure – Liz used a scalpel to remove each stitch. It’s a moment that both Sarah and Liz would never forget.

At this time, Carly Puyleart was her physical therapist.

On May 26, Sarah leaves the ICU to 4 Rainier. On this glorious day, Sarah gets to take a shower. She washes her hair four times to make sure she had removed all the dried blood, and shaves her legs.

Dr. Michelle Strong of the Tacoma Trauma Center visits Sarah to oversee and adjust her plan of care.

Satina Nepsa is Sarah’s speech pathologist.

Christina Karanasos is Sarah’s Adult Med-Surg RN.

Pamela Naccarato is her physical therapy assistant.

At 11:05am, on May 28, 13 days and about 12 hours after her horrifying accident, Sarah is discharged from Tacoma General. She’s in good condition, and is taken home via ambulance.

Her care continued outside the hospital. Mark Vance of Home Health worked closely with Sarah to ensure her wounds were healing. Mark educated the family about how to care for her wounds and encouraged the patient during the healing process. Mark said Sarah’s “can do” attitude was amazing, and she was a joy to help. On their last visit, Mark told Sarah she was his favorite “perfectly normal” patient.

The team of Revenue Cycle and Patient Access worked with the family through the complicated world of billing, insurance and claims.

In the fall of 2012, Sarah and her mother Jackie joined the Tacoma General/Allenmore Hospital Family Council to help make other patients’ care experiences as impactful as theirs, and to help improve care and service. Anna Ahrens chairs this group.

The story does not end here.

Sarah was able to attend her high school graduation with academic honors. Rich White and Jason Cancro both came to her graduation and lifted up her wheelchair to the stage, so she could receive her diploma. Sarah was able to smile at her graduation – the wires that had been holding her jaw shut were removed just the day before.

In mid-July, she was able to walk out of her wheelchair. In August, Sarah was talked into going on a walk with her mom – she ended up walking 3 miles. 

She was able to join the cheer team at PLU this past fall, and is now enjoying college. She is studying to be a nurse, which has been her longtime goal. Her nurses at Tacoma General have said she will be a wonderful nurse, and they're excited she will become “one of them” someday.

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