It's a place you never want to end up but every year more than 2,500 people come through the doors of the UAMS trauma center. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 Trauma Unit in the state of Arkansas.
Photojournalist Bre Conyers and Laura Monteverdi spent more than 20 hours inside the trauma unit to get a behind the scenes look at saving lives. We worked with the hospital to get permission from every patient to be able to show you what its really like.
As the sun sets on the city of Little Rock, the night is just beginning inside the trauma unit at UAMS. Just after 9:30 p.m. the first call of the night comes in. It was a woman badly injured in a car accident in El Dorado. Her injuries were severe so she had been flown into the state’s only level 1 trauma center.
Two hours later the patient arrived and trauma teams moved quickly as they worked against the clock to stabilize the patient and make sure she had no internal bleeding. In total, about a dozen people surrounded the patient, each with a specific job.
To THV11, it was a chaotic scene. But to the men and women behind the curtain, it was “organized chaos.”
“My job in those moments is to make sure the team knows what their roles are. Everybody in that room even though it looks like chaos has a task they are trying to accomplish,” said Dr. Ron Robertson. “What I have learned a long time ago is if I go in and I’m really wound up it makes everyone else in the room really wound up. And so, if I can keep a low-key demeanor and go about my business and approach things in a systematic fashion, I think it makes everyone else at ease.”
Dr. Robertson, the medical director of trauma, is at the helm. He's the medical director of trauma at UAMS which is one of 9 trauma surgeons that make up the team.
“You can have nights where it is quiet. You don't have anything. And then you can have nights where it is one after the other,” he added.
For the past 21 years, this has been his second home. From falls to car crashes to gunshot wounds, he's seen it all.
“You never know what you are going to deal with,” said Dr. Robertson.
With three trauma bays, the trauma unit can handle just about everything including two patients back to back. As the team continues to stabilize the first patient, another patient arrives via medflight from Texarkana. This time it was a 75-year-old man with a massive head injury from a car accident. The clock starts and work to stabilize the patient began.
“The team can get so focused on what is going on that they lose time. And so, that is a hallmark that they can go to they can look at the clock and see ok we’ve been in 5 minutes. What have we gotten accomplished? Has our lab work been sent to the lab? Do we have blood work coming from the blood bank? With goals set for the team so at 15 min we have to make a decision,” said nurse Terry Collins.
On this night it was a double success. Both patients in critical condition but stable and sent to the ICU to spend the night. This was a quieter night than most Dr. Robinson said but a night that has only just begun.
“I’ve got several hours to go so that may change,” said Dr. Robertson.