Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community

Reunion brings out stories of survival

Summer 2008

Play eases the anxiety of Bernard Dannenberg's young patient.

Car accident victim Ricky Bunch (right) greets surgeon David Spain, MD, at the hospital’s annual Trauma Survivor Reunion.

Ricky Bunch was a 16-year-old high school junior in December 2002—a lucky kid with a brand-new truck. With great enthusiasm, he took it out for a drive. Sixteen hours later, desperate friends and family found Bunch trapped, unconscious, hypothermic, with a brain injury, one leg nearly crushed, a lung collapsed. He’d missed a curve and the truck plunged 30 feet off a cliff, landing upside-down in Calabazas Creek.

Bunch was rushed to Stanford Hospital & Clinics’ Trauma Center, a place dedicated to extensive medical rescues. Treatment is focused and intense—a marvel of skill and expert teamwork—and then patients transition out for continuing recovery.

This spring, the fourth Trauma Survivor Reunion was all that its chief, David Spain, MD, had hoped for: an afternoon when doctors, nurses and medics could see the results of their work and patients could come back to say thanks and share their experience.

Bunch has come to every reunion to join with others who inevitably talk of their immense appreciation of life and the commonality of experience. Their stories are chronicles of bewilderingly sudden and serious injuries. “We have that connection,” Bunch said.

A year ago, Mae Briskin, 83, crossed a street in Mountain View and was hit by a car, her pelvis fractured, her face hitting the pavement first. She’s a writer, winner of a PEN/American West Award for short stories. For her, the reunion was more than a chance to say thank you. “I’m interested in the other people,’’ she said. “What happened to them? How are they?”
Thomas Pavelko, 59, also celebrated a year of survival since the day a driver ran a red light in Sunnyvale and hit him on his motorcycle. His pelvis cracked; both legs broke, one so badly that it was days before he knew he’d keep it. Pavelko remembers hearing one of the ambulance crew say they’d be taking him to Stanford—and he began to relax.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,’’ he said. Throughout his care in the trauma program, Pavelko, an executive at Lockheed Missiles & Space, noticed the “high, high degree of competence, not only of the doctors, but of the medical support staff, too.”

Stanford’s Trauma Program is certified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level-1 trauma center for adults and children, the only such center between San Francisco and San Jose. The trauma team treats approximately 2,000 people annually, the majority from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.


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