Angela's Story: 'I'm Still Me'

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“All of a sudden she just started crying,” says Tori McCane, referring to her sister, Courtney. “I'm like, ‘what's wrong?’ And then she said, ‘Mom.’”

“All we had originally known was that she had been in a car accident,” remembers Courtney McCane. “We later found out when we got in touch with the firefighter who responded to the scene, that the car had went off the side of the road, struck a tree, it had caught fire, and when [the firefighter] arrived there, there were two men outside of the vehicle, one woman inside the vehicle, and he didn't even see our mother until the men outside said, ‘she's still in there and get her out.’”

The Paint Creek Joint EMS Fire District decided the best place to take Angela McCane, Tori and Courtney’s mother, was to Miami Valley Hospital’s Level I Trauma Center, with Dayton’s only Regional Adult Burn Center.

“When we had found out that she had been air flighted to Miami Valley, we had wondered why because where she had had her accident, it could've been an either/or type situation,” Courtney says. “But we'd actually done some research and found out that Miami Valley had an excellent burn unit, and that was why she went there because of the severe burns.”

“The providers that are on scene, EMS, fire, and flight crews, know from their protocols what types of patients to go to what type of center,” says Ann Monnig, MSN, RN, trauma program manager at Miami Valley Hospital. “Everyone's goal is to get the patient to the right care in the right amount of time.”

Angela had 40 percent total body surface area burns on her abdomen, pelvis, legs, and back, in addition to cervical spinal fractures.
“When I saw her for the first time, I didn't know what to think,” Courtney recalls. “She was asleep, she was medically put to sleep and she was so swollen she didn't look anything like my mom.”

Ann explains that when a trauma patient arrives at Miami Valley Hospital, “the trauma team meets them right away and then quickly through a primary and secondary survey determine what all is wrong. There’s a lot of specialty services that we work with; our surgeons are double-board certified in general surgery and critical care, so they can take care of critically ill patients.” The trauma team works very closely with the burn team so that they can focus on the burns of the patient and then we take care of the other traumatic injuries,” Ann adds.

“Anytime you have a combination of multiple traumas in addition to a large burn, it increases the risk of mortality significantly,” says Travis Perry, MD, general surgeon, Regional Adult Burn Center. “The burns alone carry a significant risk of mortality.”
When Angela initially arrived at the emergency room, the emergency general surgery and trauma team was there to begin their assessment. “We arrived basically at the same time, so having an array of multiple disciplines readily available, increases positive outcomes in patients when they come in with this type of multi-trauma scenario,” Dr. Perry says.
Courtney recalls that when the doctor came in, “he said, ‘we have to amputate. If we don't amputate, then it could be serious for her, and this is pretty much our biggest important thing right now.’”

“We counseled them, and we tell them how extensive their injuries are,” says Dr. Perry.  “It was dead tissue down to the bone. And we continued to talk with them about the surgery that we had to perform in order to save [Angela’s] life.”
Courtney says that Dr. Perry was very dedicated to making sure her mother got through everything. She recalls, “I remember one time, one of her surgeries, I believe it was for a skin graft, she had been in there for hours. And he had come out to tell us that the skin graft had gone well. 

But I remember seeing just genuinely how exhausted he was because of how much effort he had been putting into making sure my mom was all right.”

“One of the things that we do, and one of the things that I like about Miami Valley Hospital is that our burn unit is a closed unit, meaning it is specifically for burn patients,” says Dr. Perry. “When the patients come in from the very beginning, all the staff members immediately become attached to all of our patients and we become like extended family members while they're here.”
Angela continues to work to regain her independence.

“As far as goals go, I'm going back to school,” Angela says. “I want to get a job doing case management. I want to be able to help people direct their lives that are in a situation like me. That’s my long-term goals. So hopefully, in a year from now, I'll be going to school.” 

Angela has a three-year-old grandson who is “the most awesome little creature in the world. And I want to be his best buddy, and I haven't been able to work on that for a year now. So, next year I'm going to be Aaron's best buddy and that's another huge goal of mine.”

“She's excited about regaining her movements in her body,” says Tori. “For so long, she's been stuck in her body, but now she's moving. She can get back to being normal again.”

Angela says that she’s always told how strong she is, that she’s an inspiration. “I thank people, but deep inside I don't really feel like I'm that person because, like I said, it's just a choice, I choose to live, choose to survive,” she says. “And really, what would I be saying to the doctors and the nurses that were there in the very beginning if I just gave up. Normal is what you want it to be. Just because you don't have legs or arms that work properly, doesn't mean you're not normal. I'm still me. I've always been me. The wreck didn't change who I was, my personality.”

What Tori wants most for her mother is for her to have her independence back. “That’s a big thing for her,” Tori says. “She doesn't like relying on anybody. She likes to do it herself. And I know that she's always going to need help, but I foresee that she'll be able to have her own house again. She'll be able to, granted she will have a nurse, but she'll be able to do things on her own and she'll be able to live by herself. She'll be able to do whatever she wants and whatever she puts her mind to.”

“These are awful things that happen to people,” says Ann. “They were completely normal two hours ago, and now their life has been completely upended. And that's our job. We have to focus on the patients and on the families because they have just as much of a traumatic injury going on. It does make a difference if you've been on the other side of things. But, most of us went into health care because we wanted to make a difference, and that's the way we can make that difference.”

“When we were told she went to Miami Valley and we found out it's because of the awesome burn unit there, I really think that that's what gave her her life back and, just thank you. Huge thank you,” says Courtney.

“I want to let the team know in Miami Valley that I'm beyond grateful,” Angela says. “There are no words that can express how grateful I really am for the work that they did.” Angela is also grateful for the care shown to her family. “That's huge, a huge task and, they did it. They did it. Professionally, they did it with their heart, and who could ask for anything more than that? 
I want to thank my family for being strong, for being by my side, and for not giving up on me.”

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