Mark Rodrigo recently blew out the candles on his cake celebrating his 38th birthday….but he almost didn’t make it past 37.
Driving home to Chicopee from a meeting last April, the local electrician was involved in a horrific accident on I-91 involving a truck and two cars that sent his Honda Civic spinning out of control from lane to lane.
Mark, 37, says he never knew that Baystate Medical Center was a Level 1 Trauma Center, until his grave injuries brought him to the doorsteps of the hospital’s emergency room with little time to spare.
“When Mark arrived his blood pressure and heart rate were consistent with what we refer to as ‘class four shock,’ the highest level of shock on the body. He had massive internal bleeding from his major organs including his liver and spleen,” says trauma surgeon Dr. Andrew Doben, noting Mark also had eight broken ribs and a severely injured knee.
Uncontrolled non-compressible bleeding is the leading cause of shock in trauma patients and delays in recognition and treatment have been linked to adverse outcomes.
“We immediately realized that Mark had life-threatening injuries that if not dealt with in a timely manner would result in his death, so he was brought to the operating room where he underwent what we call ‘damage control laparotomy,’” says Dr. Doben.
NO MARGIN FOR ERROR
Damage control surgery is the most technically demanding and challenging surgery a trauma surgeon can perform with no margin for error. It is an abbreviated surgery most often used on trauma patients like Mark, who are dying and who could not withstand a full operation.
“What we did with Mark was to make a large incision through his abdomen wall, so we could examine his abdominal organs and stop any bleeding and keep any contamination under control. Patients like Mark are then sent to the ICU with the open incision and on life support, where their vital signs are stabilized before further surgery,” says Dr. Doben.
During his stay at Baystate, Mark required 11 surgeries to repair and reconstruct injuries to his extremities and torso.
CLOSE TO DEATH
“I later learned from one of the trauma surgeons how really close to death I had been. That was traumatic to hear. I’m alive today because of them and I could sit here for hours and tell you how phenomenal the entire staff is at Baystate, and I saw a lot of doctors, nurses and other clinicians over the month I was in the hospital,” says Mark.
“You certainly don’t want to be a trauma victim, yet it’s reassuring to know that as a Level I Trauma Center, Baystate has all the resources necessary to treat such severe injuries as mine….and in the aftermath it is a relief knowing there is a trauma center right in your own back yard, so that you don’t have to be flown to a distant hospital for care,” says Mark.
After spending nearly a month in the hospital, Mark was finally well enough to continue his recuperation at home and was discharged one day after his 11th wedding anniversary on May 5.
BACK HOME WITH FAMILY
“It was a relief to finally be home with my family,” says Mark, including his wife, Kimberly, and three children, Dominik, 15, Gavin, 10, and Lucia, 7, who desperately missed their father. “I had so many tubes going in and coming out of me that they could barely touch me or even hug me.”
After recuperating at home for several months, Mark’s life has returned to some semblance of normalcy.
“My knee still isn’t 100 percent yet, but I returned to work on August 27 and am going to rehab to further strengthen it,” says Mark.