Trauma patient thanks doctors during Trauma Awareness Month

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COLUMBIA - May is National Trauma Awareness month because while it brings graduations, proms, and warmer weather surgeons say they also tend to see lots of bad accidents this time of year. The Frank Mitchell Trauma Center at University of Missouri Hospital is one of only four American College of Surgeons verified Level 1 trauma centers in the state of Missouri. While a trauma center is something you hope you never need, patients like Beverly and Steve Atkinson are thankful to have one in Mid-Missouri,

"I was just driving down the highway about 55 miles per hour," said Beverly Atkinson. "Just boom there was a deer right in the way, and that was it. That's all I remember."

After Atkinson's car hit the deer it spun into the other lane where a truck hit the passenger's side and her husband, Steve, who suffered a serious brain injury and broken bones in his face.

An ambulance took the couple's son, who had more minor injuries, to the hospital closest to their home town of Salisbury. However, it was clear Steve needed a higher level of care so paramedics flew the Atkinson's past the nearest hospital to get them to the Frank Mitchell Trauma Center in Columbia.

"When your injury exceeds the resources within your community, that's why trauma centers were designed, to care for the most severely injured and have all the resources to care for some of those on some of the worst days," said Dr. Stephen Barnes, the Chief of Acute Care Surgery.

The trauma center is about an hour drive from where the accident happened, but still much closer than the next closest Level 1 trauma center in St. Louis. Barnes says having a trauma center in the region helps save valuable time.

"That time that would be spent being transported great distances can be detrimental. It can result in your death if you don't get your bleeding stopped," Barnes said.

The month after the accident was difficult. Beverly says she didn't think her husband would live, but after several surgeries and weeks of care Steve opened his eyes and gave his family a thumbs up. Just three months after the accident, he's back at work.

"It's amazing. He's the same husband I had before," Atkinson said. "He gets really, really tired quickly, but they say over 6 months to a year that will come back."

Steve Atkinson is thankful for the doctors and friends who supported his recovery.

"It really humbles you when you figure out how many friends you have and what they do for you, and the area you live in is amazing like that," he said.