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Patient 2015 Stories

Cynthia Bowser

Cynthia Bowser

It was Friday, August 15, 2014 and just another typical day at work for 63-year-old Cynthia Bowser.

Cynthia, who was employed by PennDot in Erie County for nearly 20 years, had officially filed her retirement papers on August 13 and was scheduled to retire on September 19. But her plans changed drastically when she suffered a cerebral artery aneurysm and a subsequent stroke on August 15.

Perry Hi-Way Hose Company Ambulance with paramedics from Emergycare Ambulance rushed Cynthia to Saint Vincent Hospital, where she arrived in a coma. Instead of having to make a two-hour ambulance trip, Cynthia was transported by LifeFlight to Allegheny General Hospital in one hour for surgery and advanced care.

After she underwent a craniotomy procedure that was performed by Khaled Aziz, MD, Cynthia received care in AGH’s Neurointensive Care Unit for three weeks then began inpatient rehabilitation at West Penn Hospital.

Today, Cynthia is doing extremely well. In fact, the picture taken for the LifeFlight Calendar happened 30 days after the ruptured aneurysm occurred, illustrating her miraculous recovery. She is living in sunny California with her daughter, Kelly Bowser. Cynthia can walk for hours without assistance and has resumed her love of playing crossword puzzles.

Kelly is grateful that LifeFlight was able to transport her mother so quickly to AGH. “There weren’t any surgeons in Erie County who could perform the type of surgery that my mother needed, so LifeFlight was a key contributor in helping to save her life,” said Kelly.

Jason Chappell

Jason Chappell

When Jason Chappell suffered third-degree burns to his legs during an accident two years ago, he knew he was in big trouble. Like other people who have diabetes, Jason was at risk of experiencing a burn-related infection if he didn’t get prompt treatment. Fortunately, Canonsburg Ambulance quickly arrived at the scene of the accident and immediately transported Jason to Canonsburg Hospital. From there, LifeFlight rushed Jason to the West Penn Hospital Burn Unit for more advanced care.

After undergoing two successful skin grafting operations, Jason made a full recovery and is now enjoying his tenth year as an EMT. He credits his recovery to a quick and efficient response from emergency services personnel. “LifeFlight was great and the nurses did a good job of attending to my burns so quickly after the incident had occurred,” said Jason, whose parents are members of the Western Pennsylvania Firefighter Memorial Honor Guard. “I also highly recommend West Penn Hospital’s Burn Unit to anyone who experiences an injury similar to mine. They provide excellent service.”

After two grafting surgeries, Jason has made a full recovery and is once again serving the community as an EMT for Scott Township EMS.

Linda Clark

Linda Clark and Family

Linda Clark’s life turned upside down and almost ended on November 10, 2013. Fortunately, this tragic story has a happy ending, thanks to the help of numerous healthcare professionals who came to Linda’s rescue.

Linda, an employee at Sharon Regional Hospital, was almost finished with her shift. She was on the phone with her husband and children, discussing their evening plans after they picked her up. Suddenly, an irate patient snuck up behind Linda and stabbed her in the neck with a four-inch knife. Linda’s screams were heard by her family over the phone, as well as by co-workers throughout the hospital. While a brave nurse named Dorothy, who was coming into work, tackled the assailant in the parking lot, triage nurse, Amanda rushed to the scene and applied pressure to Linda’s neck. “Blood was pouring out like a waterfall,” Linda recalls. Coming to the nurses’ aid immediately, Michael Garfinkel, MD, FACEP, arrived and continued to stem the bleeding.

Linda’s co-workers converged around her desk and nurse Sheri said prayers while Corry, a hospital EMT, held Linda’s hand and asked her to talk about her kids. In a little under 20 minutes, Linda was sent to the operating room and underwent emergency surgery, done by John J. Ambrosino, MD, FACS, to initially control the bleeding from the stab wounds. Her sternum had to be cracked to get to the damaged arteries during this 8 hour surgery, which involved several doctors. After this initial surgery, LifeFlight transported Linda to Allegheny General Hospital for continuing surgical care.

A week later, Dr. Peter Tang performed an 11-hour operation at AGH to repair nerve damage to Linda’s arm. She then had to undergo eight grueling months of physical and occupational therapy and receive an additional surgery in August of 2014 to work on her radial and axillary nerves, which was also done by Dr. Tang.

Today, Linda is continuing physical therapy at Sharon Regional Hospital five days a week. This recovery could take years, as nerve regeneration is a very slow process.

Linda is grateful for the outpouring of support she received from her co-workers, family, friends and the community, as well as from others across the country. “Thank God I’m here and alive,” said Linda, who is an avid watercolor painter and muralist. Taking things day by day, Linda hopes to return to a normal life soon and resume her passion of painting.

To see Linda’s beautiful artwork, visit her website.

Markki and Emma Elgin

The Elgin Family

Markki Elgin was 30 weeks into her pregnancy when disaster was narrowly averted.

On July 1, 2014, she was sitting inside her husband Cody’s parked truck while he worked on the vehicle. Suddenly the blocking wedges underneath the front wheels slipped and the truck started to drift. Markki jumped out of the moving truck but was caught underneath and dragged downhill. Markki suffered four pelvic fractures as well as injuries to her chest and neck. Markki also suffered a broken tailbone and ankle. Cody immediately called 911 for help. Within minutes, the North Huntingdon EMS/Rescue crew responded and transported Markki to the trauma center at Forbes Hospital.

Markki was now facing two serious situations. She needed prompt care for her internal injuries. Markki also needed to undergo surgery on her broken tailbone and ankle. In addition, she needed an emergency cesarean section to save the life of her unborn baby.

Elizabeth Knepp, MD, an OB/GYN physician at Forbes, successfully performed the C-section then determined that newborn Emma needed specialized care. West Penn’s Neonatal Transport Team and LifeFlight’s crew then transported her to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at West Penn Hospital for further observation.

Although the events of that day are a blur to Markki, she does remember the excellent care provided by LifeFlight, Forbes Hospital and West Penn Hospital.

Today, both mother and daughter are doing fine.

Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn

Cranberry Township sergeant Dan Hahn will always remember February 14, 2011 as the chase of his life. He had joined several other Cranberry police officers as well as police officers from Allegheny County who were pursuing a drunk driver on Interstate 79. As the suspect sped toward the Evans City exit, police officers set up road spikes to stop the chase. This maneuver seemed to be successful: the suspect’s tires were shredded and his vehicle came to a complete stop. However, the drunk driver jumped out of his car and ran toward the Tollgate Road Overpass.

When the suspect leapt off the overpass to escape, Dan didn’t hesitate to follow him. The drunk driver was killed during the fall and Dan suffered multiple spinal fractures with additional fractures to one arm, multiple ribs, and his sternum. He also sustained bruised lungs.

Harmony EMS unit was soon on the scene; shortly afterwards, LifeFlight flew Dan to AGH’s Shock Trauma Unit for emergency care. Just before LifeFlight took off, Dan heard one of the crew say, “We need to take off now.” Those were the last words Dan would hear before he slipped into a coma that would last for two weeks.

Thanks to the intervention he received at the Shock Trauma Unit, Dan came out of the coma and slowly recovered from his injuries. Then he started physical therapy. According to Dan, “Everything lined up and fell into place, from my fellow cops to the local EMS to the LifeFlight crew to the nurses at the hospital. Anyone who helped me out during this process was amazing!”

During a Pirates game in August 2011, Dan was honored at PNC Park as a local hero. Thousands of lives are saved each year thanks to the expert care provided by EMS and other first response teams. To commemorate these healthcare heroes, Allegheny Health Network’s Great Saves Program honors them along with the patients they served during Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games. Eric Brader, MD, a physician at AGH’s Emergency Department, was the catalyst behind Great Saves. In a statement from Dr. Brader, “Many first responders never know that patient’s outcome. Likewise, patients who survive an emergency situation later think about the persons who saved their life. These patients are grateful to be alive and many wish they could personally thank the medical personnel that responded to their medical emergency.” This idea became one of drivers behind the Great Saves Program.

Dan was reunited with three paramedics and an emergency medical technician who helped to save his life. Dan, who was closing in on 25 years of service to the Cranberry Township Police Department before the accident, is continuing his physical therapy. Today he is able to walk once again and still maintains his lively, joyful and positive attitude.

Michael Lukan

Parents of Michael Lukan

Michael Lukan was one of those special individuals who truly makes a difference in the lives of other people. His smile was as big as his heart and he was quick to help anyone in their time of great need. Michael also inspired others by example. An active duty member of the National Guard, he was working hard to earn a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science at California University of Pennsylvania. He was also rising up the ranks in competitive bodybuilding and eventually hoped to start school at the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.

Tragically his life and dreams were cut short on July 4, 2014.

After marching with his National Guard unit that morning, Michael decided to go for a ride on his motorcycle. What started off as a joy ride ended in a horrible crash, as Michael collided head on with a truck. Not too far from the scene, his fellow National Guardsmen heard about the accident and quickly came to his aid, along with EMS crews from Washington Ambulance and Chair.

Michael’s injuries were so severe that he had to be immediately transported to the nearest trauma center. LifeFlight was called to pick up Michael at North Franklin Volunteer Fire Department. During the flight, Michael may have sensed that he wouldn’t make it when he asked Elaine Hruby, a LifeFlight nurse onboard the flight, “I’m scared, will you hold my hand?”

After Michael’s death, his mother, Louise Lukan, encountered a man at a store who was wearing a LifeFlight shirt. Louise told the LifeFlight employee how much Elaine’s compassion must have meant to Michael. “LifeFlight took care of Michael in the very best way possible,” said Louise.

In May 2015, California University of Pennsylvania will present Michael’s parents with an honorary degree in Exercise Science to commemorate Michael’s would-be graduation. “Michael was afraid of nothing and lived life to the fullest,” said his mother. May he rest in peace and watch above us.

Yvonne Murphey

Yvonne Murphy

One year after Yvonne Murphey suffered a brain bleed, the unthinkable happened. On October 4, 2013, Yvonne had another brain bleed and was slipping into a coma. Her condition was rapidly deteriorating. Yvonne’s husband, Clint Murphey, immediately called 911. Richmond VFD Ambulance and a member from TEMS rushed Yvonne to Weirton Medical Center and then arranged for LifeFlight to transport Yvonne to Allegheny General Hospital. Mindie Riley, Yvonne’s daughter, who joined her mother and crew on the flight, didn’t think her mother would make it this time around. That is, until something magical began to happen.

Knowing that her mother Yvonne is an avid Mickey and Minnie Mouse fan, Mindie took notice of a Minnie Mouse sticker on the helmet of Brenda Wamsley, a LifeFlight nurse who was also aboard. However, there was something else on Brenda’s helmet that really hit home for Mindie. Growing up as a child, Mindie would always hear her mother say the quote “Believe in miracles”, so when Brenda put on her helmet and Mindie took notice of this, she instantly began to cry. This quote had a special place in Mindie’s heart, for it reminded her of her mother Yvonne’s positive and encouraging attitude.

“Whenever things got tough and my family needed positive reinforcement, this would be the phrase that my mom would always use. So it felt like Brenda was meant to be on the flight that day”, Mindie said. Sensing the connection, Brenda tried to keep everyone onboard in a positive frame of mind. Yvonne had stopped breathing and was nonresponsive until a miracle occurred. While administering care to Yvonne, Brenda began to whisper a small prayer into Yvonne’s ear. Remembering Mindie mentioning her connection with the quote on Brenda’s helmet, Brenda also whispered into Yvonne’s ear, “I do believe in miracles.” Yvonne miraculously began breathing on her own again, but remained in a coma for the next several days.

Despite going through five brain surgeries the past two years, Yvonne has fought through the odds and has made a full recovery. Throughout this recovery process, Yvonne had tremendous support from her family. Her husband Clint never left her side and played music for her all day long, which often helped stabilize her blood pressure. The love and support not only came from her husband, but also from her siblings, family and friends. Yvonne’s grandkids sent her videos of them encouraging her to recover. The children told their grandmother to get well as soon as possible and they let her know that she had a caring, loving family waiting for her to return.

She received enormous support from her community as well, with churches praying for her non-stop. “My family and Brenda truly believe in the power of faith and love. We truly believed that Brenda was my mom’s guardian angel that day,” said Mindie, who visited the LifeFlight office the day after the incident occurred to give Brenda a gift and a card. Yvonne also visits LifeFlight occasionally to express her gratitude. With such a supportive family and community, it was only right that Yvonne would make a full recovery. “We all have a reason for being here,” she said.

Madison Rupert

Madison Rupert

It was July 18, 2014 and shaping up to be a beautiful day. Five-year-old Madison Rupert was helping her father and two neighbors who were working in a field on her family’s farm. In order to prepare the field to cut hay, Madison and the neighbors had to pick up stones and toss them into a cart that was being pulled by a tractor, driven by her father, Gary Rupert.

Suddenly, Madison darted between the tractor and cart. Before Mr. Rupert could slam on the brakes, Madison was accidentally run over by the cart. The little girl was in serious condition, sustaining a femur fracture and four pelvic fractures and she was quickly rushed to Indiana Medical Center for immediate care.

Emergency Department staff at the hospital told the Ruperts that Madison needed more advanced care at Children’s Hospital. All LifeFlight nurses are credentialed and experienced in caring for pediatric patients, so they wasted no time to attend to Madison. Accompanied by her mother Jodi Rupert, LifeFlight then transported Madison to Pittsburgh for pediatric trauma care. During the flight to Pittsburgh, LifeFlight’s nurses and crew gave positive reinforcement to the Ruperts. But the toughest trooper of all was Madison. She never cried during the flight and later told her father, “Everything is all right, Daddy. I’m fine.”

Thankfully, everything did turn out to be fine for Madison. Jodi Rupert described her experience with LifeFlight as “phenomenal.” “I was very pleased with how quickly and efficiently the crew cared for my daughter,” she said.

Madison is very close to making a 100 percent recovery from her accident: she recently completed physical therapy and has returned to school. Nothing can stop this tough, young girl. It was through her perseverance that she bounced back so quickly. It won’t be long before Madison is back to fully enjoying life on her father’s farm.