Heroes of the Trauma Bay
By Noel Daniel
A young college student visiting Philadelphia thinks he’s about to have the night of his life. He climbs a wire fence on the way to a college party and the unexpected happens: he injures a major blood vessel in his leg. He’s bleeding extensively and is transported immediately into the trauma bay where Jihan Hegazy is working.
“We were able to stop the bleeding and repair the vessels, so that we not only saved his life but also his leg,” said Hegazy. “His mother emailed me for several years after his injury with photos of him running marathons and eventually walking down the aisle at his own wedding.”
And this is just the tip of the iceberg for a working trauma surgeon. Doctors Medical Center’s trauma team includes doctors Kathleen Eve, Jihan Hegazy, Niamh Seavy, Gina Quaid, and Rohini Bogineni—and it’s a team that can’t imagine life any other way.
“I work with great surgeons,” said Dr. Quaid. “I think we have something very special and hard to find. I am so proud of our group.”
And it’s hard not to be proud. To be a trauma surgeon, you have to do four years of college, four years of medical school, and five years of residency. One can also choose to be trained extra in trauma for another one to two years for additional certification.
Each doctor has a varied, amazing story of their own—like Dr. Eve, who went to medical school with a very famous trauma surgeon, Red Duke, MD. He had his own TV show about the ER and Trauma and was a resident the day President Kennedy came in after being shot. Or Dr. Quaid, who was inspired to become a trauma surgeon after breaking her pelvis when she was hit by a car. Quaid was examined without any pain medication, and she—determined to change that practice—became the doctor she is today.
“I get to meet really awesome people,” said Quaid. “I get to hear their stories and hopefully help them in a moment in time of their life. I also work with amazing doctors and nurses to help care for patients. I can’t even imagine a life without this work. I probably would have been a bartender, mechanic, or hair stylist if I didn’t love doing this.”
Hegazy also can’t imagine a life without medicine—it’s a field she was always interested in.
“As a child, I had the pleasure of seeing how a physician’s knowledge and caring can impact a family when my grandparents needed a doctor,” said Hegazy. “Surgery is the epitome of medicine in that you can diagnose the problem and intervene to potentially eradicate it.”
But there are worlds of difference between being a general practitioner and a position as urgent as a trauma surgeon.
“When we are on call, we cover general surgery and trauma for Doctor’s Medical Center,” said Quaid. “It can be as easy as a small laceration and as tough as a multiple gunshot victim that needs an operation and massive resuscitation.”
It is a very stressful job and it involves a lot of nights and weekends away from family and friends. Seavy stresses that trauma can impact any of us at any time, so it’s important that the trauma bay is on high alert. Trauma is the highest killer of children, teens, and young adults: minutes matter after an accident. A patient can’t afford any delays in time to care after a serious injury. It is therefore crucial that a state of the art trauma center be available in the city for our family, friends, and community.
Dr. Quaid even mentioned the inevitable: that, if nothing else can be done, then it is still so very important that one has an honorable death. Very bad things happen to bodies sometimes, but a skilled trauma surgeon can at least give the patient a peaceful death. They can also save lives with organ donation.
“It is a way that a life that is gone can continue to give life to others,” said Dr. Quaid. “As a trauma surgeon, I am always trying to find that silver lining in a very bad situation.”
Thankfully, trauma shifts aren’t solely traumatic— DMC’s trauma surgeons are also general surgeons, so their non-trauma work day involves seeing patients in the office and doing scheduled elective surgeries. They work in shifts as for who gets to be on trauma call.
In the ER, along with the ER doctor and nurses, they do whatever it takes to resuscitate the patient. This may involve putting in large IV lines, intubating the patient, giving blood transfusions, or stopping any obvious bleeding. They do everything they can to save a life.
“We are people too,” said Dr. Quaid. “We have feelings and want the best for our patients. We are portrayed like money grubbing, arrogant doctors who don’t care about our patients. That is just not true. We care very deeply, and bad outcomes affect us as well. We work very hard to save lives and sometimes at the expense of our own.”
And just as Quaid found her silver lining, Dr. Seavy has one of her own: one that’s very personal to her.
“I think having a child finally cemented my desire to be a trauma surgeon,” said Dr. Seavy. “I realized that I wanted Modesto to be a safe place for him to grow up, but that if anything bad happened, there would always be a team to care for him at DMC. He is all grown up now, but I want us to be there for everyone else’s loved ones.”
And when it comes down to the immeasurable importance of their job, Dr. Hegazy doesn’t regret the path she chose.
“The ability to take care of people in some of the most difficult times in their lives is truly an honor and a privilege.”