Avera Medical Minute: Parkston helicopter crash victim alive thanks to St. Benedict trauma team and Avera eCARE

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In rural South Dakota and all over our region, telemedicine is making it possible for emergency department physicians to be virtually bedside from hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away to help rural providers with anything from small lacerations to full-on trauma.

“I don’t remember anything, getting tore out of the helicopter, coming to the hospital or anything,” said Steve Walz of Parkston.

A helicopter crash in October of 2015 changed Steve’s life forever.

“I broke both knees, both hips, couple bones in my left foot, broke my nose, broke my eye socket, got a plate of steel above my eye,” said Steve.

“I remember that day real well,” said Dr. Richard Honke, emergency department physician at Avera St. Benedict in Parkston.

“The more minds and the more help you can get with these kind of things, the better off you are, better off patients are,” said Dr. Honke.

While the trauma team in Parkston was physically helping Steve, another team in Sioux Falls was assisting via Avera eCARE Emergency. Dr. Honke says this collaboration helped save Steve’s life.

“We all train in trauma and cardiac life support but in the middle of an emergency like that, sometimes thinking of everything you need to think of is not that easy to do. And when you got these guys that are sitting there watching you and they’re doing this every day – it just helps to have their opinion,” said Dr. Honke.

Pertinent patient information and vital signs are seen in real time via E-Emergency.

“The other thing they do for us is they make all the transport arrangements and we don’t have to mess with that. We can just deal with the patients,” said Dr. Honke.

“Seconds do matter in those situations. The ‘E’ had notified the nursing staff who was flying at the time and had updated them on all the information so when they arrived at our facility, we weren’t wasting time repeating things, giving vital signs. They already had the information at hand,” said Lindsay Weber, certified nurse practitioner.

“Being able to have the camera on me the whole time where they can actually see how I’m doing, just like if they were standing next to me, that’s a huge benefit to me as a patient,” said Steve.

Steve has come a long way since the accident.

“I remember the first steps that I took after being in a wheelchair for months, not being able to move my legs for two months – I lost all the strength in my legs so the first couple of steps that I took in therapy basically wore me out and that’s as far as I could go,” said Steve.

“I’m always amazed at how well he’s doing and how far he’s come, but he had severe injuries and not everybody would have survived that,” said Dr. Honke.

Although Steve’s recovery hasn’t been easy, he’s had a positive attitude from day one. Support from his family and friends motivates him to keep pushing harder.

“I think people, a lot of people take life for granted and when you get close as what I did to losing that life, it makes you appreciate life so much more than what you did before,” said Steve.

Avera eCARE Emergency is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.