September 05, 2019
Last year, Eric and Adele Bohn made a donation to the trauma program at The University of Kansas Health System in gratitude for the lifesaving care their family received.
"… You don’t realize how important trauma services are until you need them," said Eric.
Going the distance for care
In 2017, the Bohns’ 2 sons were involved in a head-on car collision. Hunter was 18. Gavin, 16. The crash happened near their home in Columbus, a small town in southeastern Kansas. Ambulances transported the boys to a nearby hospital in Joplin, Missouri.
Gavin suffered a concussion, broken nose, cuts and bruises. Hunter was not so lucky. “They told us the right side of his skull was crushed,” Eric said through tears. “They said we should go to The University of Kansas Hospital.”
The weather was iffy, so a helicopter life-flight was out of the question. Hunter and his dad traveled by ambulance to the Joplin airport, then by medical airplane to Kansas City. “
As soon as we hit the hospital door, the trauma team knew exactly what to do,” said Eric. As the region’s only nationally verified Level I Trauma Center designated by the American College of Surgeons, The University of Kansas Hospital provides round-the-clock care for patients with the most serious trauma injuries.
Hoping for the best
"For the first 5 days, we really didn’t know how much of Hunter we would get back," Adele shared.
Hunter suffered a traumatic brain injury, a ruptured right eye and a severed temporal nerve. The complexity of his head trauma required multidisciplinary specialists, including cranial, facial, ear and eye surgeons.
"I cried on every doctor and nurse who walked in that room. And no one turned away from me. Some even cried with us," recalled Adele.
After 10 days in the ICU and 3 major surgeries, Hunter survived. He lost most of the vision in his right eye. He lost all hearing in his right ear. But Adele and Eric got their son back.
After rehabilitation, he regained the ability to speak, swallow, eat, walk and run. In fact, today he can run an 8-minute mile.
"We give Dr. (Robert) Winfield a lot of credit," said Eric.
Trauma and critical care surgeon Robert Winfield, MD, said, "Trauma care is a team effort. Every single partner has a hand in making sure our patients receive the best care 24 hours a day."
Treating trauma like a disease
Most people think of trauma as a random occurrence that happens to someone else. In fact, it’s the leading cause of death for Americans under 45. Because trauma survivors are often young, they have decades of life ahead of them. "That’s why minimizing disabilities is so important," said Dr. Winfield.
The trauma team will use the Bohns’ gift to research and develop leading-edge therapies for brain and spinal cord injuries.
"We’re grateful for this donation," said Dr. Winfield. "It’s a big step forward for our hospital."
Pursuing his dreams
It’s been almost 2 years since the accident. Every time Hunter returns to The University of Kansas Hospital for follow-up care, he meets interns who have studied his case. "That’s cool … helping to educate tomorrow’s doctors so they can help someone else," he said.
Hunter still struggles with short-term memory issues, but he finds ways to cope. He finished his associate degree in natural sciences with a 4.0 GPA. And now he’s studying natural resource biology at Fort Hays State University.
After college, Hunter hopes to find a job related to native wildlife and plant conservation. "That’s the dream," he said with a hearty laugh. "I’ve always been kind of an animal nerd."