COLUMBIA, Mo. — On the morning of March 18, 2011, 16-year-old Vincent Elrod of Atlanta, Mo., left his mother’s driveway in his best friend’s car to attend a state high school basketball playoff game in Columbia. Leaving his mom’s house is the last memory he has from that day.
Just blocks away, the two crossed Highway 63 to pick up another friend on their way to the tournament. Perhaps the boys didn’t see the oncoming vehicle due to a slight dip in the road — no one really knows for sure — but their car pulled out onto the road in front of it, and a parent’s nightmare began.
“I got the call from another boy they were supposed to pick up on their way to the game,” said Liliane Elrod, Vincent’s mother. “When I got there, I was still in my robe. They wouldn’t let me get close to the scene, so I didn’t see Vincent then, but later I could see them load one child onto the helicopter and knew it was my son.”
Vincent’s best friend did not survive the accident.
Near death due to multiple severe injuries, Vincent was taken by helicopter to University Hospital’s Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD, Trauma Center.
Stephen Barnes, M.D., chief of the Division of Acute Care Surgery at University Hospital and an expert in critical care, emergency medicine and trauma surgery, was on duty that day.
“When Vincent arrived at our trauma center, he was being given CPR as they took him off the helicopter,” said Barnes. “He was near death due to a liver injury that required emergency surgery, both of his lungs were collapsed, and his aorta had been cut in half. But patients like Vincent are the reason we are here and do what we do.”
Vincent’s other injuries included seven broken ribs, a broken sternum, a severely fractured pelvis, damage to his spleen and a traumatic brain injury.
“With these types of severe injuries there is a need to engage several surgeons from various departments to treat the patient,” said Barnes. “And this is where a Level I trauma center such as University Hospital comes into play. We have that kind of comprehensive program.”
At University Hospital’s Level I Trauma Center, Vincent’s life-saving treatments included a leading-edge resuscitation protocol using fresh-frozen plasma and red blood cells, a state-of-the-art drug to help stem blood loss, and minimally invasive repairs of his aorta, chest wall cavity and pelvis.
In all, Vincent underwent six operations and spent more than three weeks in University Hospital’s surgical intensive care unit (SICU). On April 12, Vincent left University Hospital and spent more than two weeks undergoing occupational, speech and physical rehabilitation at Rusk Rehabilitation Center.
“Our goal is to restore the functional ability of the patient to ensure quality of life,” said Greg Worsowicz, M.D., chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at University of Missouri Health Care. “In Vincent’s case, we are well on our way to getting him back to where he was before. He’s doing great.”
“We all owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD,” said Barnes. “A surgeon at University Hospital for more than 50 years, and one of the founding fathers of trauma care on a national level, he understood the importance of rapid response and quality, state-of- the-art comprehensive care. In addition, we’ve applied lessons learned from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to assure that the people of mid-Missouri receive the highest quality state-of-the-art trauma care and the best opportunity for survival.”
Vincent’s mom says she doesn’t notice any difference between him now versus before the accident, other than his lack of appetite and his mobility being slightly limited as he builds up his strength from his injuries. He is back to hanging out with his friends and was able to return to school in May to finish the year.
“This kid is amazing,” said Barnes. “He is why we have Level I trauma centers.”
For Vincent’s mom, the sentiment rings true, though in a way only a parent may be able to understand.
“There are no words that can express the gratitude I feel for the care my son received at University Hospital,” said Liliane. “From the trauma center, to the SICU, to the rehabilitation center — these are some incredible people. And every single one of them was not only efficient in what they did for Vincent, but they are incredible human beings. If there wasn’t a trauma center like University Hospital, I would not have my son today.”