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Debbie Crawley

Debbie Crawley
Posted on: 01/08/2024
“I can’t thank them enough for doing what they do every day. There aren’t enough thank-yous in the world for that.” – Debbie Crawley

“I remember bits and pieces… I remember seeing the grill and hitting it. The fairing of my Street Glide just exploded. Then I was airborne—turning, sliding, screaming. And everyone came running, except the driver. He kept on going,” Debbie Crawley recalls, describing what happened on July 17, 2023, when she was hit head-on by a drunk driver in Togwotee Pass in Wyoming.

Debbie, her husband, Mike, and four friends were returning to Denver from a 7-day motorcycle road trip to the Red Lodge (Beartooth) Rally in Montana. It was a hot summer day, and the group of six had been stuck in construction traffic, high up in Bridger-Teton National Forest. The accident happened just as they cleared the construction area and were getting back up to speed, only about 30 mph.

“We were riding ‘staggered,’ and I was third, on the inside of the road, next to the yellow line. Mike was second. He and the first rider saw the truck coming, saw him side-swipe a Jeep and take off its mirror. Then he hit me,” Debbie says. “My friends came running and started doing what they could to help me survive. We were in the middle of nowhere—literally nowhere, no cell service even.”

Debbie had massive injuries. Her left foot was severed on impact, and her left leg took the full force of her fall and skid across the asphalt. It shattered her hip and broke her femur, and large patches of flesh were scraped off to the bone. Both elbows were broken, and her face skidded on the road. She was losing blood rapidly and was at extreme risk of bleeding to death.

“But I fully believe in the grace of God, because there were two trauma nurses a few cars behind us on the road, and they had a satellite phone. They called for help and started working on me. Becky, one of our group, had packed her saddlebag with emergency supplies. They put a tourniquet on my leg.”

Grand Teton National Park EMS arrived and started working immediately: they administered fluids directly into Debbie’s bone to improve blood pressure, gave oxygen to support breathing, and called for air transport. But because of the remote location, it was an hour before the helicopter arrived.

When Air Idaho Rescue arrived on scene, Debbie had lost massive amounts of blood and was barely breathing. They gave her blood amounting to 20% of her total body blood volume and administered multiple rounds of medications to stop hemorrhaging and to sustain blood pressure. Air Idaho Rescue flight team placed a pelvic binder on Debbie, which is a device that helps prevent life-threatening pelvic hemorrhaging.

The last thing she remembers before taking off is her husband hollering, “Don’t you die on me!” and she promised she wouldn’t.

The nearest Level II Trauma Center was Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) in Idaho Falls. EIRMC’s Trauma Team was activated, which began a series of protocols to save Debbie’s life. By the time she arrived, Debbie had suffered an overwhelming blood loss and her organs were shutting down.

An entire team of over 15 clinical experts was at the ready, including Trauma Surgeons, ER physicians, multiple RNs, Radiology Technologists, Lab Phlebotomist, Pharmacist; Anesthesiologist; and others. The OR team was readied, and a surgical suite immediately prepared.

EIRMC instituted a Massive Transfusion Protocol, which occurs when a patient is at severe risk of bleeding to death. Blood Bank immediately began readying blood products to give to Debbie, and they continued to prepare blood until it was no longer needed. During the first five hours at EIRMC, Debbie received 22 units of blood products, replacing her blood volume twice over.

As a Level II Trauma Center, EIRMC must have a trauma OR suite available at all times, with a trauma surgeon available 24/7, and at the hospital within 15 minutes of patient arrival. Additionally, EIRMC is required to have an orthopedic surgeon and neurosurgeon available within 30 minutes for emergency procedures.

Debbie was sent immediately to the OR from the ER, with a trauma surgical team at the ready. Two surgeons operated simultaneously to prevent her from bleeding to death.

The interventions performed by EMS and by EIRMC’s ED and Trauma Team ultimately saved Debbie’s life.

Debbie spent 37 days at EIRMC; 23 days in the ICU and the remaining on the 3rd Floor. During her hospitalization, she underwent eight surgeries. Her daughter Lorna was by her side nearly every day. While the memories are somewhat hazy, Debbie remembers her care team.

“Everyone—surgeons, nurses, the janitor who cleaned my room, therapists—they were just an amazing team of people, and I’m so blessed I had them with me. They saved me. Dr. Meziani visited me every day that I was there. My orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jacobson, and plastic surgeon, Dr. Woodall, were wonderful in treating my leg. They all became friends, lifelong friends, and they’re like family.”

On the day she left EIRMC, her trauma surgeon, Dr. Adam Meziani, said to her, “I’m glad you’re here kid, I lost you twice.” She had not known until that moment how close she came to death.

She appreciates that they were all there for her as she began recovery as an amputee.

“I’m an amputee now, and that’s new. It’s a hard road that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it’s my road now. It’s only been six months, but the fact that I’m here is amazing, and it’s amazing that the body can heal. I’ve come a long way.”

It’s now January 2024, and Debbie is taking another road trip. She’s headed to Teton County to attend the sentencing of the driver who hit her. But along the way, she’s going to make a very special stop at EIRMC for a “family” reunion with the people who had such a significant impact on her life.

“Now that I’m past the point where I have to struggle every day, I want to go back to Idaho and spend a couple of days visiting with them. I just want to hug them—hug everybody! And cry with them. And thank them. I can’t thank them enough for doing what they do every day. There aren’t enough thank-yous in the world for that.”

Debbie Crawley
Posted on: 01/08/2024

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