Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life mission and tragic assassination inspired the modern American Civil Rights movement. Dr. King challenged the status quo on racial segregation and discrimination through civil disobedience and nonviolent means. In the much divided political landscape of 1960s America, Dr. King was aggressively targeted by his adversaries and slain for his opposing beliefs and influence. The lack of humanity and use of fear and violence to silence his message brings a current-day political tragedy to mind -- the recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and constituents gathered at her meet-and-greet event. There has been much political debate about what contributed to Giffords' shooting, but not much can be debated about the medical care that enabled her survival from close range gunshot head injuries. National statistics show that only 5 percent of people who sustain penetrating head trauma wounds survive them.
Like Giffords, Dr. King was shot in the head in a public setting. King's shooting occurred on April 4, 1968, at 6:01 PM, and he was pronounced dead at the hospital an hour later. For first responders, the initial 'golden' hour after injury is critical in the prevention of death and organ damage. Most traumatic deaths occur in the pre-hospital setting, and Rep. Giffords was fortunate for the quick response and expert care she received from the trauma team, both before and after arrival, at the Arizona University Medical Center. Veteran trauma surgeon Dr. Peter Rhee is the Trauma and Critical Care Medical Director at the AZ University Medical Center and has kept the public informed of Giffords' condition and progress.
This past October, Dr. Rhee attended the CIMIT Innovation Trauma Workshop and was an invited speaker at the CIMIT Forum. His Forum presentation was thought provoking and solution-oriented. Not one to mince his words, Rhee challenged medical dogma and 'archaic' technology used in modern trauma and emergency medicine. Dr. Rhee expressed his frustrations with cumbersome, expensive, and slow technology in current clinical trauma settings and resistance to changing the way trauma clinicians practice and are trained. New ideas to long-recognized unmet needs to assess patient status or control bleeding may take decades for technology to validate, and accepted practices may actually create additional intervention and treatment or are unrealistic in real-world settings. (Some examples Rhee presented include: Organ failure is a man-made trauma complication. Widely accepted practice of holding pressure to stop bleeding is impractical on the battlefield.)
In addition to challenging medical dogma, Rhee also challenged HIPAA privacy regulations, which can prevent or hinder urgent care. When every second counts after trauma, delaying response time or restricting access to continuous patient monitoring, may actually contribute to a patient's death vs. save a patient's life. Privacy concerns, while well-intended, prevent wide-spread use of available, off-the-shelf, inexpensive smart phone technology (Wireless, small, hand-held devices most of us own and know how to use bundled with GPS, video chat, data visualization tools, etc.) that could be integrated into the continuum of trauma care settings from the scene of the Safeway massacre to the ambulance on-route to emergency triage, operating room, and ICU to a monitored recovery in the home.
View Dr. Rhee's CIMIT Forum Presentation and Panel Discussion on October 26, 2010:
Progress continues in Giffords' 'miraculous’ recovery. Many factors contribute to ‘medical miracles’ every day - first responders’ assessment and reaction time at the scene, the trauma medical team’s coordination and expertise both before and after arrival at the hospital, and the medical device and communication technology used from end-to-end. Doctors now say full recovery is a possibility for Rep. Giffords. Let’s hope our national unity can also recover from this senseless tragedy through reconciliation, humility and tolerance.
CIMIT would like to wish a swift recovery to those injured in the Tucson shooting including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and our deepest condolences to the family and friends of those that were killed.