the Book’s Foreword
by Richard S. Miller, MD
I am so glad we were able to save Joe’s life so he could tell his story to the world. I have heard several other patients describe a similar experience. However, none have had the courage to speak publicly about this phenomenon.
Joe Laws arrived in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Trauma Resuscitation Bay in hemorrhagic shock. His collapsed lungs leaked air into the soft tissues of his chest, neck, and face, giving him the appearance of the Michelin Man. Amazingly, he still had the ability to communicate with our trauma team and tell us that he had fallen off the roof of his shed.
We rapidly resuscitated Joe with blood and blood products and began the evaluation of his injuries. A CAT scan of his entire body, called the Traumagram, revealed extensive damage: cervical and thoracic spine fractures, clavicle and scapular fractures, collapsed and badly bruised lungs, especially on the left, including eleven rib fractures. His most serious injury was an extensive spleen rupture with active bleeding from its blood supply. This required an emergent abdominal operation to control the bleeding and remove his spleen. Joe was then transported to the trauma intensive care unit on ventilator support.
His injuries caused severe pain, necessitating placement of a thoracic epidural catheter, which infused narcotics directly into his spinal canal to relieve the pain associated with the many displaced rib fractures. These injuries made it very difficult for Joe to breathe independent of the respirator and support enough oxygen delivery to his vital organs. Thus, we felt he was an excellent candidate for operative chest wall stabilization.
Five days after his injury, we took him back to the OR and placed three titanium rib plates on the most severely displaced fractured ribs. After this operation, he slowly improved and was able to be weaned off the respirator, and then he started his rehabilitation and long journey to recovery.
I saw Joe in my clinic about two months after his discharge and was amazed at his progress and incredible attitude. It was over a year later that Joe finally re-contacted me and had the fortitude to tell me that he had died during the fall.
Yes, as a trauma surgeon, I am a Man of Science. However, I do not believe that science and religion necessarily preclude each other. I have spent over twenty years repairing the biological body, but recognize that Science has yet to explain the spark that makes us all human.
Hoping everyone finds his or her heaven