When Todd Maxson, M.D., worked to implement a trauma system for the state of Arkansas in 2009, he didn’t know that his own life would be among the many saved.
“It’s certainly different being on the opposite end of care,” Maxson said.
On Sept. 1, Maxson, a professor of surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine left Arkansas Children’s Hospital on his motorcycle after a long day in the operating room. Maxson is chief of pediatric trauma surgery and was on call.
A car hit him on Woodrow Street, minutes away from Children’s Hospital. Maxson flew off the bike, breaking his helmet. The vehicle dragged his motorcycle 150 feet. Fortunately, two bystanders stopped to help. One of them called 911. The other, at Maxson’s request, called Children’s Hospital. His work and his patients remained a priority even as he lie in the street with life-threatening injuries.
“As a trauma surgeon on call, my responsibility is for emergencies at the hospital,” Maxson said. “We can’t leave that uncovered for even a second.”
Maxson said Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services were quick to the scene and some of the EMS professionals recognized him from training.
“I may have provided a couple of suggestions,” Maxson said with a chuckle. “It’s in my nature. But they smiled and took care of me. They did everything right.”
That included transporting him to UAMS — the state’s only adult level one trauma center. Anna Privratsky, D.O., in the UAMS Department of Surgery, was in the Emergency Department that night. She says it had been relatively quiet when the trauma call came in.
“I saw it was a motorcycle accident. Minutes later the chief resident told me it was Dr. Maxson,” Privratsky said. “As a trauma surgeon, there’s not a lot that can shake you. But when someone you know comes in for trauma, that’ll do it.”
Privratsky, a former UAMS resident who worked under Maxson, says her training prepared her for even the most stressful situations.
“We all know Dr. Maxson. But when something like this happens you must tuck aside everything except focusing on getting him better. We do that for everyone who rolls through the doors.”
As a level one trauma center, UAMS had access to interventional radiologists who worked to stop the bleeding within an hour. Orthopeadic surgeons were immediately available. Maxson had a shattered pelvis, a shattered right femur, lots of bruises and significant blood loss. He had four major operations in four days.
“Doing the major surgeries together prevents complications,” Maxson said.
Maxson left the hospital two weeks later. He’ll have to keep weight off his legs before a few more surgeries. Then he’ll begin physical and occupational therapy. He hopes to be back to work summer 2018.
“I’m coming back,” Maxson said. “I’m absolutely coming back. And I’ll be a better surgeon after this. I now have a level of empathy that I couldn’t have gained before this.”
Before 2009, Arkansas had the highest injury-related mortality rates in the country. After the trauma system was established, the state saw a 50 percent reduction in preventable deaths.
“The gift given by the Legislature in the form of a trauma system has paid unbelievable dividends,” Maxson said. “Had that system not been in place, I think I would’ve died. And if I lived, I wouldn’t be in the shape I am today. The investment has a positive return.”