In February 2017, Richard Anderson, 74, was installing a new door garage opener, when he misjudged the last few steps on his ladder. He fell hitting his back on his car mirror on the way down.
Not feeling any pain, Richard got back to his long list of chores, not thinking much of his little fall.
The next day he went to work, and about mid-way through the day he felt a little dizzy, and he noticed he was sweating a lot. Still, Richard didn’t really feel any pain and continued with his work day.
After work, Richard went to his local clinic right before closing. He told the nurse about his symptoms, letting her know he did have a little fall the previous day. The nurse explained that they were closing, but if he did feel funny he should go to a local emergency room.
Back home, Richard’s symptoms started to get worse. He decided it was now time to go to his local hospital and called a ride.
By the time Richard got to his local emergency room he could barely talk. Doctors worked to stabilize his condition and completed some diagnostics. Richard had some severe internal bleeding and doctors determined that Richard needed the specialized care of a trauma center, like that offered at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center.
Richard was transported to the Trauma Center at Long Beach Medical Center. He had already lost one liter of blood internally. On arrival, Richard was met at the Emergency Department by the trauma response team, who worked quickly to figure out the source of Richard’s internal bleeding.
Richard had a hemothorax, a collection of blood and air in the space between the chest wall and lung cavity, caused by a rib fracture. He required two surgeries to stop the bleeding.
“The Trauma Center care team provides care coordination for our patients from the moment of entry until they are discharged,” says Desiree Thomas, program director, Trauma Services. “Our care team worked with Richard through two surgeries and continued to manage his care after his admission to the intensive care unit (ICU).”
In total, Richard lost more than three liters of blood and had to be put on a massive transfusion protocol to replace all the blood he lost. One trauma patient in need of a massive blood transfusion may need approximately 130 units of blood and at least eight platelet donors to have enough life-saving blood products.
Long Beach Medical Center’s Blood Donor Center works closely with the Trauma Center to encourage the community to donate blood regularly so that there is always a sufficient blood supply at the ready.
Richard spent two weeks in the ICU where doctors monitored his progress before transferring him to MemorialCare Rehabilitation Institute at Long Beach Medical Center. Rehabilitation is a major part of the recovery process and part of the Trauma Center’s full spectrum of multi-disciplinary care.
After spending two weeks in a hospital bed, Richard’s muscles in his legs needed a little help to get him back to his everyday routine. He spent a month in rehabilitation working with physical therapists to get back on his feet.
Today Richard is back to everyday life and back on the job as a Federal Protection Officer. He still can’t believe that a little fall took him out for as long as it did.
“Looking back, I really didn’t think much of that fall and I wish I had been more careful,” says Anderson. “I really want to thank my care team from the Trauma Center, the MemorialCare Rehabilitation Institute and everyone who helped me along the way. They really saved my bacon that day.”
Richard’s case is a reminder of the importance of keeping safety and injury prevention top of mind for older adults.
“Cases like Richard’s are surprisingly common,” says Thomas. “People often fall in the safety of their own home or at work and don’t think much of it. It’s important to talk to your doctor about falls and fall prevention, especially if you have fallen or you’re afraid you might fall. Remember it’s okay to seek medical help and even the smallest of falls can have lasting damage.”