By Jeff Kramer
So it was on a recent Friday when I ended up in the region’s only Level 1 Trauma Center after being hit by a car while riding my bicycle.
After getting hit, I sprang to my feet and walked a block to the DeWitt Fire Station from the crash scene to get checked out. I felt OK, but my left side hurt. I told a firefighter I’d been struck by a car. Then I got pale and woozy. I heard someone describe me as “diaphoretic”* — which immediately reminded me of the old television show “Emergency” and in particular Dr. Kelly Brackett who was always throwing around that word to impress the ladies. Then I thought about Nurse Dixie McCall and how, as a kid, I never thought of her as “hot” per se, but in retrospect her Awesomeness Quotient was quite high and I would now be extremely interested.
And then my wife, Leigh, arrived at the fire station. She sounded worried but no more worried than usual as my emergent interludes go.
I could barely see her because by then I was strapped to a backboard, and someone had clamped a plastic mask on my face, apparently to stop me from talking. An ambulance arrived, and off I went to Upstate where I became the charge Dr. Samantha Jones, MD and her team of Concerned Helper People.
I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember the team searching with ultrasound for something called Morison’s pouch** and me being relieved when they finally found it even though I had no idea what it is.
A nurse gave me some bad news: My favorite neon green UnderArmour shirt would have to be cut off. That was tough to take. I felt cold, and I kept hearing the words “hematoma” and “abrasion” in reference to my injuries.
Yet even in my compromised state I was impressed by the thoroughness with which the team probed my personage. I was asked about a small bandage on my shoulder. I told them it was from a cortisone shot I’d had earlier that day. What can I tell you? I have issues.
Gradually the room became more relaxed.
Dr. Jones asked if I’d like something for the pain. That sounded like an excellent idea. Then I heard the one word that makes being on the losing end of a car-bicycle accident almost worth it: morphine. Five minutes later I understood: The Upstate Regional Trauma Center is the most wonderfulest place on earth.
Soon after, I was wheeled to a recovery area for observation. Dr. Mike Costanza, MD, a friend and vascular surgeon at Upstate, came by to check on me. He kept making me laugh, which made my ribs hurt. So much for “First, do no harm.” Then Dr. Jones arrived to make sure I could walk and to tell me the X-rays showed nothing broken or otherwise amiss.
My wife had even better news: My bike wasn’t seriously injured either.
And so what could have been a tragic day ended well, thanks to good fortune, some experienced firefighters and a crackerjack team of emergency room professionals living up to the proud tradition of Dr. Brackett and Nurse McCall. The lesson for Central New Yorkers is clear: If you’re shopping for a Level 1 regional trauma center, you can’t beat Upstate.
I know I’ll be back.
* Diaphoretic means sweating profusely.
*Morison’s pouch is the space separating the liver from the right kidney, which may fill with fluid as a result of injury.
Veteran journalist Jeff Kramer also writes for the Syracuse weekly, The New Times, which is published every Wednesday.