R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center Gala Honors Those Who Go "Above and Beyond"

For immediate release: April 22, 2017

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“Medical Miracles” Exemplify Heroic Efforts, Medical Excellence and Extraordinary Journeys of Survival and Healing

Calling their recoveries “medical miracles,” two patients and the first responders and medical teams who saved them from near certain death were honored tonight at the 28th Annual R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Gala at the Baltimore Convention Center. The annual event, which tonight hosted 1,500 attendees, honors the State’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel and medical professionals who represent Maryland’s unique, highly coordinated trauma system. 

“It’s a privilege to care for patients when life is on the line,” says Thomas M. Scalea, MD, the Honorable Francis X. Kelly Distinguished Professor of Trauma Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Physician-in-Chief, R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. “The incredible stories of survival and recovery that we shared this evening would not have been possible without the seamless care of the prehospital providers, nurses, physicians, and rehabilitation specialists — who together make up Maryland’s trauma system, the most sophisticated system of care in the United States.

Those in attendance heard the remarkable stories of Thomas (T.J.) Scanlon and Douglas Wetzel who survived against the odds from life-altering events.

“Truly miraculous” recovery turns tragedy into inspiration

On March 5, 2016, now 32-year-old T.J. Scanlon fell 20 feet into a concrete stairwell. 

After uncharacteristically not showing up for work, T.J. was found 48 hours after his fall. Suffering from hypothermia and with a myriad of life-threatening injuries, he arrived at the Shock Trauma Center with barely a glimmer of hope for survival. Despite having suffered a spinal cord injury rendering him paraplegic, hypothermia, and 90 minutes of cardiac arrest, what happened over the course of the next 65 days and 29 operative procedures is described as “truly miraculous.” 

He left his Shock Trauma “family” – as they call each other – in May 2016 – for his home in Medford, MA, for rehabilitation.  After several months of transitioning to life in a wheelchair and resuming remote work for Northrop Grumman, he is now preparing to move back to Maryland to re-establish his life and full-time career as an engineer at the company.

“I realized pretty quickly that something bad had happened,” he said. “But I have a personality that says overcome challenges and be the best you can be. I wanted to have a fighting chance and that is what EMS and Shock Trauma gave me.”

A slight turn becomes "one very bad day"

Doug Wetzel had come out of the 1-mile swim in his first Olympic triathlon, relieved to be out of the murky water and on to the last leg – the 10K run -- when he veered from the course for a “pit stop.” The next thing he remembers is waking up in Shock Trauma Center with his wife, family and friends surrounding him in happy tears – although he didn’t know how or why he was there

On June 5, 2015, after six days in a coma during which he was treated with an innovative liver dialysis machine and then a liver transplant, Doug awoke to learn that he had suffered a heat stroke with a body temperature of 107 degrees which led to liver failure. He was found unconscious under a bush by one very perceptive and persistent Chihuahua and rescued by the dogs’ owner. Doug was immediately rushed to UM Shore Regional Medical Center to be stabilized before he was transferred to Shock Trauma. 

Thirty one days at Shock Trauma and the University of Maryland Medical Center, three weeks of “the hardest thing I have ever done” – rehab at University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute -- and several months of at-home therapy, gave Doug the strength and confidence to resume working as the Executive Chef at Gertrude’s in Baltimore and gradually participating more fully in life. 

A finely-tuned athlete, Doug struggled to understand how his body failed him, but today looks at life differently.

“I had one very bad day, but it doesn’t define me,” he says. “I take great care of my body and enjoy swimming and biking again. The accident gave me perspective and a new way of thinking about things. I cherish every minute,” he said.

Supporting The Center for Injury Prevention and Policy

Funds raised by the Gala benefit The Center for Injury Prevention and Policy (CIPP) at Shock Trauma. The Center focuses on injury trends and prevention-based educational programs offered throughout the State of Maryland.

The mission of the CIPP is to reduce preventable injuries and violence and to reduce the consequences while establishing a culture of injury prevention in Maryland. Geared to research, evaluate, and modify implementation techniques in teaching trauma prevention, the CIPP consists of multiple programs including the Violence Prevention Program, the Domestic Violence Bridge Program, the Trauma Prevention Program, Minds of the Future Program, and the Trauma Survivor’s Network. The CIPP holds approximately 1,500 events annually.

“Tonight we celebrate the support of our generous donors who have gone ‘Above and Beyond’ by raising critical funds to support Shock Trauma’s mission,” says Senator Francis X. Kelly, chairman, Shock Trauma Board of Visitors. “I encourage others who believe in this institution to pledge to go ‘above and beyond’ as well.”

To learn how you can support the mission of the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, visit the University of Maryland Medical System Foundation at www.ummsfoundation.org/stc

About the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center

The R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center was the first fully integrated trauma center in the world, and remains at the epicenter for trauma research, patient care, and teaching, both nationally and internationally today. Shock Trauma is where the “golden hour” concept of trauma was born and where many of the life-saving practices in modern trauma medicine were pioneered. Shock Trauma is also at the heart of Maryland’s unparalleled Emergency Medical Service System.

About the University of Maryland Medical Center

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) is comprised of two hospitals in Baltimore: an 800-bed teaching hospital — the flagship institution of the 12-hospital University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) — and a 200-bed community teaching hospital, UMMC Midtown Campus. UMMC is a national and regional referral center for trauma, cancer care, neurocare, cardiac care, diabetes and endocrinology, women's and children's health, and has one of the largest solid organ transplant programs in the country. All physicians on staff at the flagship hospital are faculty physicians of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. At UMMC Midtown Campus, faculty physicians work alongside community physicians to provide patients with the highest quality care. UMMC Midtown Campus was founded in 1881 and is located one mile away from the University Campus hospital. For more information, visit www.umm.edu

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