When Juan Mata arrived at the emergency room (ER) at Fort Duncan Regional Medical Center with a traumatic head injury, the staff acted swiftly to get him the lifesaving treatment he needed.
When Mata was 15 years old, he sustained critical injuries as a passenger in a car accident that left him semi-conscious. Emergency responders called in the trauma code to the ER at Fort Duncan, alerting staff to begin preparations to transfer him to a Level I Trauma Center in San Antonio.
Fort Duncan is a Level IV Trauma Center, which means it is equipped to provide advanced trauma life support, evaluation, stabilization and diagnosis for medical emergencies with a helicopter landing base onsite for airlift transfers. There is a dedicated team of doctors and nurses who perform specific roles to stabilize and transfer patients to trauma facilities for advanced care.
House supervisor at Fort Duncan, Nancy Lim, RN, oversaw Mata’s transfer that day and remembers it as the fastest transfer she’s ever been a part of in her 10 years at the hospital. “The average transfer time is an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the nature of the accident,” explains Lim. “The fastest we can usually do it is an hour, but we transferred him in 45 minutes. We have the Air Evac helicopter on stand-by for emergencies, and that day we were lucky they were there in 5 to 10 minutes.”
In these situations, time is critical, and the hospital staff’s top priority is stabilizing the patient. They communicate updates to family members when they can do so safely. ER nurse at Fort Duncan, Irene Lerma, RN, says, “It is nerve-wracking for the family to be waiting and wondering. Someone will talk to them the minute that they can, but it is important to understand that our main concern is the patient.”
Mata’s mother told him how she was scared and crying as they prepared him to be airlifted, but that a nurse took her hand, calmed her down and brought her up to the helicopter to see him before takeoff. Lim understands the emotions that family members grapple with during medical emergencies and does her best to reassure them. “When a trauma comes in, everyone is anxious, but before the patient leaves, you always try to let the family see them.”
Now age 19, Mata attends college and has two part-time jobs in Eagle Pass. He had a long and challenging recovery after the accident but worked hard to regain the memories and skills he lost as a result of the brain injury. While he doesn’t remember his experience at Fort Duncan, he learned from his parents how the staff took swift action to save his life. “My parents tell me stories about going to Fort Duncan and how they acted immediately in my case,” he shares. “If they hadn’t treated me the way they did, it could have been a different story.”
In the case of medical emergency, remain calm and call 9-1-1 right away.
Learn more about the ER at Fort Duncan >