In Quebec and across North America, accidents are the number-one cause of death in children between 1 and 18 years old. Trauma is also one of the leading reasons youngsters end up in the ER. At Sainte-Justine, we see approximately 12,000 young accident victims every year – enough to fill the Bell Centre. Most people will have experience with trauma at one point in their lives.
It’s almost 11 p.m. on a cold Saturday night in January. The tension in the Sainte-Justine emergency room is palpable. The team is prepping for the imminent arrival of a young snowmobiler. A Lanaudière-area hospital had called an hour earlier to say that an unconscious boy was on the way. They had had to intubate him.
The nurses were warming up the room and the IV fluids and getting the requisite drugs ready to use. The respiratory therapists were adjusting the breathing equipment he would be hooked up to as soon as got there. And the doctors were going over the priorities they would have to address. It was quite a team: emergency physicians, surgeons, critical care specialists, anesthetists and radiologists.
They leapt into action the minute he arrived.
That’s what trauma is. You’ve seen how it plays out on television in countless shows like Grey’s Anatomy or Trauma. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a long, drawn-out fight from beginning to end.
After an hour in the ER, Gabriel, as they found out his name was, would undergo four operations, a 10-day stay in the ICU followed by 24 days in the trauma surgery unit and finally, intensive rehabilitation at the Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Centre (CRME) over the span of three months. And every step of the way, he had a team of professionals by his side. Not only that, he had YOU!
State-of-the-art equipment used in every one of these units was made possible because of the funds raised by the Sainte-Justine Private Schools Youth Challenge. It included the probe to monitor his cerebral oxygen levels, as well as multiple devices in the ICU to start rehabilitation exercises as quickly as possible, and to prevent complications. And then there was everything used during surgery and at the CRME that was specially adapted to young trauma patients.
I’m lucky to have followed what the Sainte-Justine Private Schools Youth Challenge has done for several years now. In 2012, while I was still training to become a pediatric surgeon, the amazing adventure began between the CHU Sainte-Justine Centre of Excellence in Trauma Care and participating private schools. I remember being very impressed when I was told about the initiative. Youth helping youth. What a wonderful example of philanthropy in action!
Now, several years later, not only am I a practicing pediatric surgeon, but I’m also the head of trauma medicine, so I’ve got a front-row seat to see what these students are making happen.
I’ve witnessed the impacts of the new equipment and research breakthroughs – and gotten to know the young people whose lives have been changed as a result. Thanks to the Youth Challenge, the Centre of Excellence in Trauma Care now has some of the most sophisticated medical equipment available on the market at its disposal, putting us on par with North America’s finest institutions. But none of this would have been possible without the efforts of the kids and teens who give their all when the Challenge rolls around. Over the past 10 years, we’ve observed a drop in the fatality rate among trauma patients. So all their hard work is definitely paying off!
Every morning as I start my rounds, the Sainte-Justine Youth Challenge sign I see on the door of the trauma surgery unit reminds me just how much of a difference hundreds of young people have made in the lives of our patients. The $5-million commitment to the Centre of Excellence in Trauma Care wraps up this year, but it will continue to have an impact for decades to come.
On behalf of all the trauma care team and our grateful patients, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!
*The remarks expressed in this article reflect the opinion solely of the author and should not be considered as representative of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.