Brandon Stuckwish recently returned to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, but it wasn’t for medical care.
It was an opportunity for the 17-year-old Vallonia resident to meet the health care workers who saved his life after a serious wreck July 2 in Cortland.
He was able to walk on his own to thank the trauma team at the Indianapolis hospital and check out a medical helicopter.
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“I thought being able to meet the people that saved me was a great experience, and being able to see the helicopter was awesome, as well. They don’t have very much room in there,” the Brownstown Central High School senior said. “I thank them for all the work they do, not only for me but for other people, as well. It was great also to meet the trauma nurses that took care of me.”
At the hospital, Stuckwish reunited with intensive care unit nurse Jessica Hall, trauma surgeon Dr. Ashley Meagher and physical therapist Jason Dearholt.
He then went to the Indianapolis Downtown Heliport to meet IU Health LifeLine team members Michael Boone, Ivan Brentin and Shawn McClaughry and get an inside look at the helicopter.
Looking back on the day of the wreck, Boone, a flight nurse, said it was obvious when they arrived on scene that Stuckwish had life-threatening injuries. He was ejected from his truck, and three of his passengers were injured. He lost consciousness three times, but first responders were able to bring him back.
“Fortunately, ground EMS recognized his tenuous prognosis and activated a helicopter,” Boone said. “He needed resources that LifeLine could provide, and he needed them expeditiously. This is why helicopter EMS exists.”
Boone said he was able to intubate Stuckwish while McClaughry began resuscitation, which ultimately allowed them to get Stuckwish to Methodist to undergo surgical intervention.
He had emergency surgery to get his bones stabilized. His injuries included multiple fractures down his neck and spine, an incomplete break on a portion of his spine, a broken right femur, a broken left humerus in two places, a broken right scapula, a broken pelvis, a dislocated left leg, a fractured right fibula and cracked ribs.
Stuckwish only had to have a handful of surgeries, and he had rods placed in his upper arm, leg and pelvis. Altogether, he received 30-some units of blood during his two weeks at the hospital.
He then spent the next three weeks at Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana in Indianapolis. He returned home Aug. 5 and started physical therapy at the end of August.
He has taken his school classes virtually and recently returned to work for Stuckwisch Power Washing.
Boone said the progress Stuckwish has made is surreal, to say the least.
“Generally, people do not look like themselves when they are seriously injured due to swelling, the presence of tubes, etc.,” Boone said. “He has also lost a significant amount of weight during his recovery. When we met him, we didn’t even recognize him, especially since he was walking, talking and having a good time around the helicopter. The human body is an amazing thing.”
Dearholt said Stuckwish’s physical therapy consisted of range of motion and strengthening of all extremities while in the ICU.
“We also began early mobilization to improve his tolerance to activity, such as adjusting to wearing his braces,” Dearholt said. “We also were able to prepare him for rehab by increasing his ability to participate and activity tolerance as he progressed in the hospital. We performed exercises, stretches, worked on bed mobility and established an exercise program with parents.”
Stuckwish wasn’t able to stand when he left the hospital, so when Dearholt saw him walking without an assistive device during the recent reunion, he said he was absolutely surprised.
“It was great to hear that he would be going back to school soon and was returning to his previous level of function,” Dearholt said.
Boone and Dearholt were glad to see Stuckwish again.
“Unfortunately, we do not get many opportunities to see the impact we have on our patients,” Boone said. “It is a welcomed reminder of how important our job is and how important it is to do it well. I am extremely happy for him and his family despite the circumstances. This experience has given me a renewed sense of vigor and confirmation that I have chosen the best career in the world.”
Dearholt echoed those comments.
“It was very important because working at a hospital, I don’t get many opportunities to visit with patients after they leave,” he said. “It gives you hope that those patients are able to make full recoveries and return back to their lives.”
Joining Stuckwish on his trip back to Indianapolis were his parents, Ryan and Kelli Jo Stuckwish, and Mac Taylor.
“I know it was great for Brandon to be able to meet the people who were responsible for keeping him alive and with us,” Ryan said. “He didn’t remember anything from those first days or week, so it was great for him to meet them and thank them.”
Ryan also thanked all of them again.
“It seemed like everything happened so fast when the accident first happened, and I wasn’t able to really talk with them and tell them how much they all meant to us,” Ryan said. “I know it meant a lot to them, as well, to see Brandon and how great he was doing. They were all amazed to see him walking up and smiling.”
Kelli Jo said they will forever be grateful for all of the staff at Methodist, LifeLine, Jackson County Emergency Medical Services and others who assisted.
“The feeling of getting to reunite with the trauma team on different circumstances was absolutely heartwarming, especially to see the emotions on their face when they saw Brandon walk up,” she said. “They see a lot of stuff happen in their trauma unit, and to hear that our boy pulled through that night and to see how hard they fought for him is absolutely amazing.”
Kate Morgan, business development and outreach manager for IU Health LifeLine, said they are in the planning stages of a case review. They are making Brandon’s transport and hospital stay a learning opportunity.
“Many times, EMS providers don’t get the feedback or information on what happened to their patient or how the care affected their hospital course,” Morgan said. “Brandon’s hospital stay is noteworthy in itself. It was Methodist’s first successful REBOA (resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta) for a trauma patient.”
The plan is to have Jackson County EMS provide a review of the care they provided to Brandon on scene, the LifeLine crew review the care they provided during transport and trauma review Brandon’s hospital stay.
Morgan said that will be conducted Nov. 11 at the Jackson County EMS station in Brownstown and broadcast for EMS providers across the state.