I have always known that I wanted to save lives. But on one of my first nights at the Los Angeles County Medical Center's trauma unit, I treated a very serious chest wound that changed the course of my career.
I was a second-year resident when the patient's heart suddenly stopped cold as I examined him. I could see that a pair of scissors had penetrated his heart, meaning that he was likely to die in minutes if I didn't react as fast as possible.
I quickly opened his chest and found the tear in his heart and closed it up with a suture that my attending physician had advised me to always carry.
The patient went home a week and half later. But it was at that moment that I committed to specializing in trauma surgery. For me, that first night was a game changer in my next step in medicine. Working against the clock to save the life of a critical patient is a way for me to contribute to society.
It's making an immediate difference in the life of a patient, perhaps even saving their life. And it's being able go out and tell an accident victim's worried family, "They are going to be all right."
Of course, the likelihood of being able to deliver that kind of good news increases dramatically the faster a victim arrives at a trauma center. That was a major reason the Hospital Corporation of America partnered with the University of South Florida's College of Medicine to establish a trauma center network and open Blake Medical Center's state-of-the-art trauma center.
Until Blake's Medical Trauma Center opened in 2011, there was no local trauma facility for Manatee, DeSoto and Sarasota counties. Critically injured people had to be transported to trauma centers in communities 30, 50 or even 100 miles away. Or, they did not go to a trauma center but were treated in a local Emergency Department.
Our area had that problem solved with the new Blake's Trauma Center, where I serve as medical director of trauma surgery. But we now face opposition to this facility and service, which is so clearly needed by our community and surrounding counties.
Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital and Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg have filed legal challenges in court and with the Florida Department of Health to overrule DOH's original approval of the Blake Medical Trauma Center. The people in our community who depend on Blake need to know that our opponents want the state to actually shut down our trauma center and go back to sending critically injured patients out of town.
One can only speculate on their motivation. But residents of the counties served by Blake Medical Trauma Center can do something tangible by sending a letter to DOH rule development by Feb. 5 to Lisa_VanderWerf-Hourigan@doh.state.fl.us or faxing to (850) 488-2512.
Most importantly, our community needs you to speak out and tell the state that decisions on the locations of trauma centers need to be made solely on the needs of our community and patient. If that's the basis, there wouldn't even be a discussion of closing down our new trauma center.
Brian Kimbrell, M.D. FACS is the director of trauma and surgical critical care for Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.