NWI trauma surgeon handles influx of cases - January 22, 2016

Courtesy of NWI Times

January 22, 2016 8:30 am • Giles Bruce giles.bruce@nwi.com, (219) 853-2584

Last summer, Calvin Taylor was on I-80/94 near Gary when a car came into his lane and forced his motorcycle between a semi and a van. He quickly put on the brakes, which turned the bike on its side and sent it toward the 18-wheeler. He jumped off the motorcycle just in time, his body skidding across the highway. When he came to a stop, he had to rapidly get up and run out of the way of an oncoming semi. His doctor later said it “was like something out of a movie.”

The damage: a completely dislocated wrist, a foot and knee skinned to the bone.

The 36-year-old Gary police officer was taken to the Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary, where he promptly underwent surgery. When that facility was designated by the state as a trauma center in 2014, it had the advantage of having a trauma-trained orthopedic surgeon already on staff.

While Dr. Judson Wood had been performing trauma surgeries for roughly two decades, his number of cases increased significantly after the designation. Being a trauma center meant that most patients with traumatic injuries within 45 minutes were transported to Methodist rather than their nearest hospital, increasing the Gary campus’ volume by 60 percent from 2014 to 2015.

That’s how Nicholas Boersma, of DeMotte, ended up in Gary last summer. He had been teaching his 8-year-old daughter how to steer the family ATV — “I started learning to drive a tractor at that age,” he noted — when she didn’t turn the wheel tight enough and they went over the edge of a drainage ditch. He was ejected from the vehicle, breaking his arm. His daughter, thankfully, was not injured.

Boersma, 35, was transported to the Methodist Northlake campus, the nearest trauma center. When it came time for surgery, Wood’s biggest concern was not damaging Boersma’s radial nerve, which controls movement in the arm and wrist. Boersma is a saxophone player and high-school music teacher.

“After surgery he asked me how I was,” Boersma said of the surgeon. “I gave him a thumbs up with my right arm and he gave the biggest sigh I think you can give.”

Wood says he aims to provide compassionate care and keep the business aspect of medicine far out of his mind. Said Taylor, the Gary cop: “Every time I walk in, he’s smiling, he’s joking. If I break something, I want Dr. Wood.”

“I try to treat the whole patient: not just the injury but the mental state, emotional state, the family,” Wood said. “Like when you’re treating younger people, you have to treat their parents as well.”

That was the case for Sean Bowen, a Portage 15-year-old whose mother, Virginia, was terrified last summer to find out her son had been in a mo-ped accident and was at the Gary trauma center. He had T-boned an SUV and gone through its window, fracturing both his collarbone and femur.

Virginia said the nurse at the ER, and later Wood, put her at ease during what would be a horrifying time for any mom.

Wood got him into surgery quickly, being careful not to injure the teen’s growth plates. Bowen later did rehab, then used a walker, then a cane.

“He’s off of everything now,” his mother, Virginia, said this week. “We’re working on getting the plate in his clavicle removed. In August, we’ll have the rod they put in his femur removed. The care they provided was second to none.”

In August, Robert Hupke, a retired St. John school teacher, was driving when a car swerved over the double-yellow line and hit him head-on, cracking his thighbone nearly in half. Wood performed his surgery.

“I’m doing fine,” the 73-year-old said this week. His wife, Ann, noting that they appreciated the surgeon’s positive outlook. “I’m walking without a cane. I’m walking without a walker. He says I should be able go golfing in the springtime.”