When Kelly Ellis and her 4-year-old twins Huck and Hayes set out for swimming lessons on June 9, 2017, they had no idea the trip would turn their family’s world upside down. They hit a tree in a car accident that left Huck unconscious and all three of them with injuries that required urgent medical attention. The twins were flown to CHoR while Mom was transported by ambulance to VCU Medical Center.
CHoR was the first hospital in the state to earn the Level 1 pediatric trauma center designation and remains the only one in the region. As a Level 1 pediatric trauma center, our teams and hospital have the highest level of preparation and experts available around the clock to treat the most severely injured children.
“Children have unique needs that require specific knowledge and expertise when seconds count,” said Kelley Rumsey, PNP, trauma program manager at CHoR. “Since CHoR and VCU Medical Center’s trauma programs are under one umbrella, Mrs. Ellis and her children were able to remain close while getting the personalized medical care and attention they needed under the same roof.”
Expert and coordinated care actually started before the family reached the medical campus downtown. One twin was flown by VCU LifeEvac and the other by Virginia State Police Med-Flight staffed by VCU flight nurses who tended to them until they arrived at the hospital.
Huck experienced the most extensive injuries, including a broken femur, fracture in his lower back, cut on his left eye and multiple injuries to his neck. Because of the complexity of his injuries, his care was carefully coordinated among specialists in critical care medicine, general surgery, neurosurgery, orthopeadics and rehabilitation. He was in hospital for 31 days, primarily in the pediatric intensive care unit.
While Hayes was conscious and awake immediately following the accident, she had a gash on her forehead and pinhole puncture in her small intestine that required laparoscopic surgery and a week-long hospital stay. Kelly’s broken leg and associated surgery and recovery involved three weeks in the hospital.
Dad was at work and big brother Eli, age 6, was at the beach with his aunt, uncle, cousin and grandmother when the accident occurred. Thankfully both parents’ jobs were flexible and supportive and their extended family pitched in to help ensure that everyone’s needs were met and not a single member of the Ellis family had to spend a night alone throughout the process. After Mom and Hayes were released from the hospital, they joined Dad and Eli in comforting Huck and encouraging his recovery.
“Huck had bleeding and swelling. He had a spica (body) cast for several days, which was then removed to have a neck halo placed and his femur fixed,” said Kelly. “His siblings were really concerned about him. They wanted to go to the hospital and see him as much as possible.”
Huck’s long road to recovery has involved multiple surgeries, wearing the neck halo for three months and inpatient rehab. He started kindergarten still in the halo and only attending school for one hour a day, three days per week. By the end of September he was wearing a much smaller neck brace and going to school full-time with his siblings and classmates.
Seven months after the accident, Huck continues to see Drs. Tye, Horstmann and Monasterio for follow-up consultation and care. Since the family lives an hour from Richmond, it’s especially helpful to have all specialists and imaging together in the Children’s Pavilion so they can get Huck’s coordinated care with one stop. Though Huck’s parents are following doctors’ orders and taking things slowly, they estimate it won’t be long before he’s back to playing with trucks and tractors with Dad and, as his big brother puts it, “acting crazy.” Not much can keep the Ellis siblings from being silly in the meantime.
“The care we all received, but especially Huck, after the accident was first-class,” said Kelly. “We can’t thank everyone at CHoR enough for helping our family get back to normal.”