Bruce Somers of Marion Station is a pretty fortunate guy, as he was once described by an Emergency Department physician as “the patient closest to death that I’ve ever treated who still made it through.”
It was June 20, 2009; Bruce Somers’ worst day, but as fate would have it, maybe his luckiest too, because he landed in the arms of a talented PRMC trauma team that simply refused to let him go. “People and other doctors will ask us when we went to Shock Trauma and we tell them never,” said Tanna Johnson, Bruce’s fiancé. “Everyone is amazed because of the severity of Bruce’s injuries, but we know there’s no way he would have received any better care on the other side of the bridge or anywhere else.”
It was in Bishopville, Maryland a little over two years ago now when the driver of a large box truck ran a red light. In the middle of that intersection, as fate would have it, was Bruce Somers, who was driving a smaller truck delivering a load of crab pots. The crash was ugly…a t-bone impact.
Bruce arrived at PRMC by helicopter where, based on the critical nature of his condition as relayed by the EMS crew, he was designated as a Red Code trauma patient-the category reserved for the most critically injured trauma patients. Given this designation, a trauma surgeon, three Emergency Department physicians, Emergency Department nursing and tech staff, lab, and respiratory personnel were all awaiting his arrival. When wheeled into the trauma bay, Bruce had multiple obvious and visible injuries and a nearly amputated left arm.
While the team was stitching, stapling, and compressing, x-rays were obtained and Bruce was taken to the ED’s CT scanner for further evaluation of his internal injuries. While this evaluation was in progress, Bruce was getting unit after unit of blood and human plasma through a rapid infusion machine in an attempt to correct his prior and continued blood loss.
In the three hours he was in the Emergency Department, Bruce received 15 units of blood, 14 units of plasma as well as other blood clotting products. Before the first 24 hours were over, he received a total of 60 units of blood products from the PRMC blood bank; 40 of which were actual donated units of blood.
Radiology tests confirmed what doctors feared. Bruce had a horrific array of trauma injuries in addition to those already known including bleeding around and inside the brain in multiple areas, extensive facial fractures, fractures of his neck, upper and lower back with multiple fractures in each site. He had also suffered a lung contusion, bleeding inside his chest, 10 fractured ribs, bleeding in his abdomen including bleeding from his right kidney and liver, multiple pelvic fractures and a complex right hip socket fracture.
Such an extensive and complex degree of injuries in one patient is sobering to even to a seasoned trauma team like the one at PRMC. With game faces on, they worked feverishly to save Bruce’s life, but privately there was the realization that he was facing a very difficult challenge; one that very few people in his condition survive. “It was touch and go for a long time,” said Tanna. “We’re just so glad that everyone was there and knew what to do.”
Following this evaluation, a decision was made to take Bruce for immediate surgery in a further attempt to stop his internal bleeding. Amazingly, he was still alive, and now considered stable enough for transport to the operating room.
In the OR, Bruce had Trauma Damage Control Surgery, where the goal is to stop and repair major bleeding only. This style of trauma surgery has an emphasis on limiting the time a patient spends on the table and under general anesthesia, with minor injuries to be corrected at a later time. Bruce was then taken to the ICU for further stabilization.
Bruce continued to stabilize in the ICU and returned multiple times in the following days and weeks to the operating room for various corrective surgeries.
Bruce’s care team grew to include specialists from Neurosurgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Ophthalmology, Plastic Surgery and Rehab Medicine in addition to Anesthesia and the Trauma Surgeon who initiated his operating room journey.
Bruce would spend multiple weeks in PRMC’s ICU, a total of 43 days, before being transferred to Bryn Mawr Rehab in Pennsylvania where he would spend an additional 10 weeks, ultimately awakening from coma.
Bruce then transitioned to home with family support for extensive home care and therapy despite his inability to walk at that time. After a tremendous amount of effort and hard work, he was able to walk unassisted in only six months after his accident. “There’s no doubt in our minds what-so-ever that the people at PRMC gave Bruce a second chance at life,” added Tanna.
Today Bruce walks, laughs and converses with surprising ease. He has recovered much of his former function, although he’s limited to lifting no more than 20 pounds, and is currently working on getting his driver’s license back. “I’ve got an 05 Road King, a 730 pound Harley that I’m hoping to get converted to a trike so I can ride again,” said Bruce. “I can’t do everything I could before the accident, but I feel good and I can’t thank everybody enough.”