DARLINGTON – This past Saturday night was unlike any other Mary Roelli could remember as a long-time ER manager and trauma director at Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County.
In that position, Roelli has witnessed many tragedies first-hand. But never before could she remember a night when the hospital had to prepare for not one, not two, but four med-flight pick-ups all around the same time.
Two serious accidents happening in Lafayette County just hours apart– one an ATV rollover in Darlington late in the afternoon on Saturday and another a one-vehicle rollover east of Shullsburg in the early evening– pushed the resources of the local EMS, fire departments, law enforcement officials and hospital staff to the brink.
However, out of all that tragedy came something to be very proud of as those groups came together in a time of need and turned in an outstanding coordinated effort.
“It was a real testimonial to the resources we have in our small community and how they can pull together in times of tragedy,” said Roelli.
At around 3:30 Saturday afternoon, the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department and Rural Medical Ambulance were dispatched to the Cheese Country Trail in Darlington Township for an ATV that had overturned on the trail, seriously injuring two parties.
The two victims– Jordan Keepers and Vickie M. Fuller-Jenkins, both 50, of Milwaukee– were getting to Memorial Hospital right around the time of the weekend shift change which meant that there were double the nurses and dedicated staff on hand to handle the tough situation.
“Timing was everything with that,” noted Roelli.
While Roelli didn’t have to officially activate the hospital’s trauma team at that point, she noted the trauma training and preparation the nursing staff, medical staff, laboratory and radiology departments have completed in the past helped established roles they used to respond correctly to a situation where they had multiple patients.
“One of the reasons it went so well internally is because Mary has been working quite diligently with the staff– testing and activating the trauma team, as well as ensuring the nursing and medical staff all have advanced training in trauma,” said Kathy Ruef, director of nursing.
Roelli also cited the effort of ER doctor, Muhammad Kaisruddin, who was able to manage the entire situation without any supplemental help.
“We had an excellent ER doctor on hand. He did a very good job,” said Roelli.
Once it was determined both Keepers and Fuller-Jenkins were going to need a higher level of care than could be provided at Memorial Hospital, the call went out to Rockford, Ill. and UW-Hospital in Madison to request med-flight transportation.
In coordinating with those two hospitals, the staff soon realized the two helicopters were going to land at approximately the same time and everyone kicked into high gear.
With the Memorial Hospital maintenance staff already getting the landing pad at the hospital prepared for a med-flight landing, the team went to work with EMS, the fire department, law enforcement and med-flight to prepare a secondary landing pad.
After ruling out the park by the swimming pool, it was decided that the parking lot at the Family Health of Lafayette County Clinic could be used and the maintenance staff and law enforcement officials went to work preparing the site for a second landing.
“The coordination between all of those resources had to be phenomenal,” declared Ruef. “That was a well-managed effort of multiple members of our emergency management team. There was a lot of great team playing. It was wonderful to see.”
And, while all this was going on, the hospital received word of a one-vehicle rollover accident on Dunbarton Rd., a mile and a half east of Shullsburg, with multiple ejected victims also requesting med-flight services.
Officials began discussing setting up a third landing site at Darlington High School, but instead the helicopter from Rockford landed at the scene of the accident.
Kyle Monahan, 21, Shullsburg, was transported from the scene to a Rockford hospital, while Rebecca Cushman, 21, Dixfield, Maine, was transported to Memorial Hospital by ambulance and pronounced dead prior to the arrival of the fourth med-flight helicopter.
“Both the medical staff and the nursing staff train in Advanced Training in Trauma and we actually train how to activate this, so we performed as a well-oiled team,” said Ruef.
The same can be said of all the emergency technicians and law enforcement groups who played a role in handling both accident scenes as well.
“There’s a lot of teamwork that goes on here,” Roelli stated. “We all play a part in something like this. We all work together as a team to make us ready for these situations.”
Ruef said she was impressed with how efficient the staff was working together and noted that communication was the key.
“The fact that they could handle all this and keep in stride with what they had to do and how to do it in an inefficient manner says a lot,” she added.
Hospital administrator Sherry Kudronowicz agreed.
“Testing and drilling are pretty important in this situation because who in their wildest imagination would think that three helicopters would land here at the same time,” said Kudronowicz.
Ruef and Roelli also cited Dr. Matt Solverson, the ER medical director, for his efforts keeping in touch with the staff both over the weekend and on Monday following all the excitement.
And, in the end a little luck– or divine intervention– was also at work to assure a positive result to a less than positive situation.
“Everything was aligned to have all those helicopters available. Sometimes you call and they’re out or they can’t fly because of weather,” said Roelli.
Added Ruef, “God does watch out for us sometimes.”