Originally published in Chester County Life magazine
Harley Blaisdell knows he’s lucky to be alive after being struck by a car and catapulted nearly 20 yards onto the cold, wet asphalt of the Pennsylvania Turnpike on the morning of September 27, 2012.
When he was brought to the Emergency Department (ED) and Level II Regional Trauma Center at Paoli Hospital, Harley had suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured wrist, and a lacerated spleen.
“We were hopeful for a good outcome, but knew the odds were against him,” said trauma surgeon and Medical Director of Paoli’s Trauma Center, Kris R. Kaulback, MD.
Harley had the misfortune of being at the wrong place at the wrong time that morning. The Glenmoore resident had left his home and headed toward Philadelphia where he worked as an executive chef. As he entered the Downingtown toll plaza, the automatic machine failed to issue a ticket. He pulled through, parked on the shoulder, and proceeded on foot across several lanes of traffic in search of the nearest attendant. Upon retrieving a ticket, he headed back to his car and, unknowingly, stepped into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
“When I arrived at the scene, Harley was unconscious, nonverbal, and unresponsive,” said Captain Kenneth Smithson, paramedic and supervisor of training at Uwchlan Ambulance Corps. “The force of impact was so severe that it knocked him right out of his shoes.”
Smithson acted quickly to immobilize Harley and prepare him for rapid transport to Paoli Hospital. There a dedicated staff of emergency medicine and trauma physicians and nurses were prepared to offer immediate care for his life-threatening injuries and provide Harley with instant access to vital technology and critical care services.
“Having this level of emergency services available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, right in Chester County can make all the difference in saving lives and decreasing disabilities,” added Smithson. “Without this type of timely, specialized care, Harley’s outcome would probably have been much different.”
According to Stuart Brilliant, MD, chief of emergency medicine, Paoli Hospital, it’s because of strong relationships with local emergency medical services (EMS) providers, like Uwchlan, that Paoli is able provide the right care at the right time.
“Our emergency department coordinates and communicates with EMS professionals on the scene so we can gain vital medical information to prepare the staff before a patient arrives,” he said.
This type of efficiency combined with staff expertise and leading-edge capabilities bring patients at Paoli unmatched resources for emergency—and, often, lifesaving—care.“At Paoli, patients receive a level of care and expertise similar to that provided at larger city-based medical centers but with a personal touch that can only be found in a community hospital,” Dr. Brilliant noted. “And no proof is more powerful than the stories of those thriving today because the right professionals, technologies, and expertise came together on their behalf.”
Consider this: At Paoli, physicians are either board-certified in emergency medicine with additional training in advanced trauma life support, or board-certified in trauma surgery and critical care medicine. As for the nursing staff, 75 percent have earned a Bachelor of Science (BSN) in nursing and nearly 50 percent are certified in emergency nursing. They were also recognized as one of 20 recipients nationwide—and the only in the Philadelphia area—to receive the Emergency Nurses Association “Lantern Award” for exemplary ED care and exceptional and innovative leadership, education, advocacy and research. Plus, Paoli nurses are the only in Chester County to achieve the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Recognition®. This is the highest national recognition for excellent nursing practice in hospitals. There is also a wide-range of specialists available around the clock, including anesthesiologists, neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, and cardiologists.
Furthermore, once stabilized in the ED or trauma center, the patient is transferred to the
Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which has been designated a Gold Level Beacon Award winner for optimal outcomes and exceptional patient care. Only five ICUs in Pennsylvania received this recognition.
“The physicians, nurses, and all support services work as one cohesive unit and go well beyond the standard of care to treat each patient like we were caring for our own family,” said Dr. Brilliant.
With this inter-professional teamwork backed by advanced technology and techniques, including trauma resuscitation rooms, designated operative suites, interventional radiology, CT scans, CT/angiography, MRI, a point-of-care lab and satellite pharmacy, patients can expect the highest level of care. Paoli is also an accredited Stroke Center and Chest Pain Center, dedicated to rapid intervention for acute stroke and heart attack. In addition, the helipad, located adjacent to the parking garage, provides direct access to the trauma center, for times when valuable minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
This high level of emergency medical care is further enhanced by the compassionate care for which Paoli Hospital is widely noted for providing to patients and families.
“While saving lives and quickly caring for urgent medical conditions is the primary goal in the ED, we are also committed to comforting and communicating with family on an ongoing basis,” said ED nurse manager, Bernadette Weis, RN.
Harley’s sister, Melissa Winters, RN, a nurse at Paoli, was working that morning unaware of the event unfolding in the ED. Dr. Kaulback went to her unit to speak personally about the gravity of the situation and to let her know Harley had been stabilized and transferred to the ICU. When Melissa arrived in the ICU, she felt reassured by the regular updates provided by the physicians and staff caring for her brother.
“As a nurse, I knew a lot, but not everything,” she said. “I was relieved my family didn’t have to rely only on me for all the answers. What I did know for sure was he was in the best hands.”
Today, after his stay at Paoli and months of intensive inpatient and outpatient therapy at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, Melissa reflects on how far Harley has come and how lucky she is that he is still alive and thriving. Although his short term memory continues to heal and he walks with a slight limp, Harley has made a remarkable recovery. He has returned to work and to some of the activities he enjoyed prior to the accident.
“Harley is a very optimistic, positive person with amazing resiliency,” Dr. Kaulback said. “I saw him recently, and was amazed with how far he has come. Given his tremendous determination, he will probably reach and even surpass any goals he sets.”
As Harley reflected, “I know things could have turned out terribly different, and I’m so thankful for the lifesaving care I received. Life goes on. I’m happy to be alive and enjoy every day for what it’s worth.”
Paoli Hospital’s ED features 28 private patient rooms and four triage rooms, and is equipped to handle any minor to serious, life-threatening injury or illness. There are multiple waiting areas, including a dedicated space for children, and private consultation rooms for family and staff.
As part of the ED, the Paoli Hospital Regional Trauma Center, which is the only Level II trauma facility in Chester County, has the resources and specially trained professionals immediately available to care for seriously injured patients.
As a complement to its emergency services, Paoli Hospital and Main Line Health now offer urgent care services at the new Main Line Health Center at Exton Square Mall. Open nights and weekends, seven days a week, this walk-in center provides care for many unexpected, but not life-threatening, illnesses or injuries, such as colds, flu, respiratory problems, strep throat, ear infections, sprains, select immunizations, physicals, and more, in a welcoming environment without an appointment needed. With board-certified Main Line Health physicians onsite, urgent care services are provided to patients of all ages and are designed to support, not replace, a primary care physician when unavailable. Moreover, because it's operated by Main Line Health, patients get a high level of care and compassion, backed by a network of support services available through the health system.
For more information about Paoli Hospital emergency and trauma services, visit mainlinehealth.org/paolied and mainlinehealth.org/trauma. For more information about urgent care at Main Line Health at Exton Square, visit mainlinehealth.org/exton.