Patient Stories

An Unexpected Survivor

The phone rang at 2:00 a.m. It seemed like a nightmare unfolding for David Trumbo’s grandparents, as they answered the chilling call and listened as a Saint Alphonsus’ Emergency Department nurse explained that David was there – desperately fighting for his life.

David, a high school senior at the time, was involved in a very serious motor vehicle crash. He was one of three passengers in a compact car that had swerved to avoid hitting another car and ended up in a one-car rollover. The driver was later convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The fact David survived the crash was nothing short of a miracle since he had been partially ejected from the vehicle by the force of the crash. Seconds counted for his survival and the Saint Alphonsus Life Flight crew quickly responded to the call to transport him to the Saint Alphonsus Trauma Center. An assessment of his condition conveyed the severity of the situation: David’s internal organs were seriously damaged because the car had rolled and landed on top of him; both lungs were punctured; his spleen and liver were lacerated. David also suffered a severe head injury and the swelling and bleeding were so profuse all of his injuries couldn’t be determined until he arrived at the hospital.

Just when David’s family felt it couldn’t get any worse, a visit from the surgeon indicated his blood was not circulating properly. The only way to save him would be through emergency surgery utilizing extraordinary measures to help his blood circulate through his body. The surgeon had described it as “an ugly surgery” – due to some of the steps that had to be taken to help get his blood to circulate – but they were measures that would be necessary to save his life. When the surgeon appeared again two hours later, they learned the surgery had been a success and David’s circulation was good. It was encouraging news!

Even with these successes, it would be weeks before the physician would suggest David might make it through his traumatic ordeal. Steadily, with patience and perseverance, David began to improve. It was a very lengthy process – six weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and three additional weeks as an in-patient – but it was helpful just knowing he was making progress. Through it all, David was never alone during his hospital stay at Saint Alphonsus. His family and friends were constantly by his side, offering encouragement and support until his discharge home that July.

Today, David has returned to the everyday pleasures of life. While he maintains he has always believed in miracles, he truly believes his life was spared for some special reason. The fact he was given a second chance has inspired him to live with a newfound view—life is truly fragile…and it can change in an instant.

For David, it’s also an exciting time. He is preparing to go to college and seeking a career that involves helping others – as an acknowledgment and tribute to those who helped save his own life. At this time, David is exploring interests in the field of nursing or physical therapy.

Another focus of his story and one David especially wants to share with the teens in the community, is to “…recognize there are others who are making wrong choices and you can do the right thing…and be responsible.” The tragic accident has changed David in many ways, but he also has learned one person can make a big difference in the lives of many others.


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