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Trauma survivors reunite, grateful for life-saving care

Trauma victims reunite with the people who saved their lives, bringing sense of closure to their life-changing ordeals. Left to Right: Robin Reidel, the patient who crashed on his bike, is with Jennifer McFadden, physical therapist, Leah Hallam, ICU nurse, Tracey Bledsoe, physical therapist, and Jessie Melendres, ICU nurse.

After a pickup truck hit her during a triathlon-training bike ride, college student Madeline Reinach looks at life differently.

“I don’t let the small stuff bother me anymore,” said Reinach, who in May of 2022 suffered head, face, chest, abdominal, arm and leg injuries and was hospitalized at Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center for nine days. “If I get a bad grade on a test, I am just glad I could walk to that class to get that grade.”

Madeline Reinach with her parents and trauma surgeon Dr. Chris Bandy.

She has come a long way. She is now able to walk, swim, and ride a stationary bike.

Reinach and her parents recently travelled from Massachusetts to Vacaville to attend a special trauma survivors’ reunion at the Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center to thank the first responders, doctors, nurses, patient care technicians, respiratory and physical therapists, and others who helped save her life and get her on the road to recovery.

Vacaville Medical Center became Solano County’s designated Level II trauma center 10 years ago, and it’s one of two Kaiser Permanente trauma centers in Northern California. Level II trauma centers are staffed with a trauma surgeon and numerous specialists on-call every day, around the clock. The Vacaville center treats more than 800 trauma patients a year.

The opportunity to reconnect

Each of the six patients at the reunion suffered devastating injuries, caused from car, bike, or motorcycle crashes. Accidents also involved boats and horseback riding.

After surgeons mend what is broken, and therapists and nurses tend to physical and emotional needs, the staff rarely get to see the long-term outcome for their patients.

 “The patients and their families have overcome adversity. They returned to show us what thriving looks like,” said Amy Brammer, RN, trauma program director. “This event was validating for the work they do. We are humbled to be a part of their survival story.”

A mountain bike crash three years ago left Robin Riedel with a ruptured ventricle, which required life-saving heart surgery. After the reunion, he wrote in an email that he appreciated the opportunity to reconnect: “It was really cool meeting up with some of the people who helped me.”

The reunion also illustrates the ripple effect of saving a life. Two survivors had children since their accidents.

Gabriela Curiel Sandoval was four-months pregnant when a boat propeller severely lacerated her legs. She stayed at Vacaville Medical Center for a month undergoing nine surgeries, two of which were over 10 hours long. Since then, she has repeatedly expressed gratitude to the care team for saving her life and that of her baby, and for saving her badly cut legs. Baby Leah is now 10 months old.

Senior Vice President and Area Manager Darryl Curry told the patients at the reunion: “You are what motivates us to be the best trauma team we can be. Your strength and resilience are inspiring.”

Reflecting on her experience at the trauma center, Madeline Reinach noted that in addition to saving her life, the care team showed her tenderness that meant so much to her.

“I heard from multiple people that the ICU nurse, Amy Allison, braided my hair (while I was in a coma),” she said.  “The care and compassion that she showed to me is indicative of the care team, and a huge reason why I am able to return to UC Davis to continue my college career.”


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