Vanderbilt marks 25 years of highest trauma center capability - WSMV News 4

Vanderbilt marks 25 years of highest trauma center capability

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Vanderbilt University Medical Center is marking a milestone Friday after 25 years as a Level I trauma center.

That's 25 years of life-saving medical care for thousands of people from Middle Tennessee and beyond.

Channel 4 News was granted rare access inside the trauma center to take a look at a typical day for the trauma team.

Just as Dr. Richard Miller, chief of the trauma and surgical critical care division, was showing us around the Life Flight helicopter pad, he got a page that a trauma patient from Cheatham County was minutes away.

Miller headed to a trauma bay to await the patient and meet other doctors. He said the bustle of a real emergency room is much calmer than what one might see in a TV drama.

"It's not the chaos you see on TV," Miller said. "I like the analogy of a symphony - quiet and organized."

On this call, Miller and his team rushed to help a woman injured in a car crash. First, they examined her entire body for broken bones or damaged organs.

Within seconds, the doctors determined she would be OK.

"If you arrive here alive at Vanderbilt, you have a 95 percent chance of survival," Miller said.

It's an impressive statistic that has taken years and a lot of work for the highly trained team to achieve. The work dates back to the early 1980s and the vision of Dr. John Morris.

"He had the vision that trauma is a real disease. It is the No. 1 killer of people under the age of 44," Miller said.

Morris also wanted to treat the patients as part of the team, further creating the symphony approach.

Each person on the medical team is charged with a specific duty but works with one another toward a common goal.

"We've evolved over the last 25 years and learned from mistakes to streamline care and the team approach that is second to none in this region," Miller said.

The addition of Life Flight was one key to the team's success. It, too, has evolved from one, single-engine helicopter that would land on the football field at Vanderbilt Stadium to an $8 million dual engine flying emergency room that can reach speeds of 150 mph.

"They start doing all the life-saving things in here," Miller said, in the Life Flight helicopter.

Nurse paramedics in the helicopter can start an IV or put in a chest tube during the flight to the hospital, and it is the only medical helicopter in Middle Tennessee where a patient can get a blood transfusion while being flown to the hospital.

"I think we're making a big difference across, not only the community, but throughout the entire country," Miller said.

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