Life can change in an instant.
One minute, you’re a carefree 19-year-old girl, enjoying a summer day out in the country. The next, you’re in a hospital 100 miles away with your spine crushed and a surgical incision running the length of your stomach.
In June 2018, Haley McCommon was in a rollover ATV accident near Darling, Mississippi. She knew she was injured, just not how severely.
“There was no cell service, so we rode 20 minutes back to town to call 911,” she said. “When the paramedics got there, they said I didn’t have time to ride in an ambulance. They shut down a local highway and dropped a helicopter down.”
Haley was headed to Regional One Health’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center some 100 miles away. She had a lacerated liver and spleen, torn diaphragm, punctured lung, broken collarbone, broken ribs and multiple compression fractures in her spine.
Without prompt, expert care in a facility with the resources to treat critically injured patients, her mobility and her life would be at risk.
Haley’s story is an example of how the Elvis Presley Trauma Center is a crucial resource not only for Memphis, but the entire Mid-South. Thanks to highly trained specialists, cutting-edge technology and ongoing support from the Regional One Health Foundation, it serves a 150-mile radius, treating the most critically injured patients from Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. Without the trauma center, patients in parts of those states would not have adequate access to lifesaving care after a critical medical emergency.
Haley is one of those patients. As soon as she arrived at Regional One Health, she was rushed into emergency surgery. She can still recall the pain and fear – but also telling herself she would not quit fighting for her life, no matter how hard it got.
As it turns out, she was far from alone.
At Regional One Health, Haley and her mom Casey met a group of doctors and nurses they would soon nickname “Haley’s Dream Team” thanks to the way they surrounded them with expert medical care, kindness and support.
Haley met Dr. Jerry Jones and his Acute Pain Service team three days into her hospitalization. She was on morphine and was struggling with pain, nausea and an opioid haze.
Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Jones and his team, patients at Regional One Health have access to continuous peripheral nerve blocks, which help get patients through the acute pain period with few or no opioids. Patients are more likely to be alert and comfortable enough to participate in rehab and are not exposed to potentially addictive narcotics.
For Haley, the difference was night and day – Casey recalls seeing her daughter smile for the first time in days, and how the light seemed to come back into her eyes.
Haley had turned a corner; her “Dream Team” beside her every step of the way. While she would still require additional surgeries and rehabilitation, Haley knew she would fulfill the promise she made to herself on the way to the hospital – just keep fighting, and you’ll get through this.
A year later, Haley and Casey returned to Regional One Health with a poignant message: Thanks to the care they received, Haley was back to the life she loves, and was even inspired to pursue a nursing career so she could help others in their time of need.
“You weren’t just doing a job. You laughed with us. You cared about us. You were her team,” Casey said. Haley added, “You were more than doctors and nurses. It wasn’t just coming in and taking my vitals and giving me medicine. You don’t realize how much that means.”
“You had more than enough opportunity to give up or choose a bad course,” as Dr. Jones told Haley. “You could let this ruin your life or you could learn what strong is. The direction you went, you picked it. It’s you who had to get up, get back on your feet and live your life again.”