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#3 Top Story of 2018: Traumatic injury made less painful thanks to specialty care at ANMC

December 31, 2018




This story was one of ANTHC’s top news items in 2018. The original story was published in April 2018.

As she arrived on the scene on Badger Road, midway between North Pole and Fairbanks, her heart raced faster than the whirling red and blue lights from the emergency vehicles.

On her way home from work just a few days after Christmas, Hilda Johnson received a phone call that her son, Jamie, was in a car accident. Jamie’s girlfriend called and said he was alert and in stable condition, but that Hilda would have to come and pick him up and take him to the emergency room because the 17-year-old didn’t want to ride in the ambulance.

“It’s a mother’s biggest fear – to see a car wreck that her child is involved in,” her voice quivered. “It was just devastating to see the ambulance and fire trucks and the flares on the road and police directing traffic. I was trying to keep calm.”

The accident left him with a gash above his eye. In the emergency room, Jamie received six stitches.

“It was a horrifying experience especially when the doctors took the bandages off in the ER stitching him up,” Hilda said.

Jamie also received a computerized tomography scan, also known as a CT scan, which revealed he broke the bone above his eye – the outer wall of his sinus. After stabilizing, Jamie was released. Mother and son returned home after a long, frightful day.

Traveling to ANMC for specialty care
Two days later, Jamie had follow-up appointment at Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center in Fairbanks. The CT scan results were sent to the Alaska Native Medical Center Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Clinic. It was determined that Jamie and his mother would need to travel to Anchorage and ANMC the next day for surgery and specialty care provided by the ENT Clinic.

With little time to make arrangements for a babysitter, pack and travel, Hilda and Jamie Johnson were aboard a flight to Anchorage.

The next day, the Johnsons met with Dr. Amalia Steinberg, who would perform the surgery. Jamie had a couple of options: he could have a titanium plate inserted into his head or be left with a hole in his forehead.

“He didn’t want to walk around with a hole in his head,” Hilda laughed.

So, Dr. Steinberg reopened his stitches to insert the titanium plate. However, a procedure that was expected to last a couple hours lingered because the bone was shattered into eight pieces. Like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, Dr. Steinberg had to carefully glue the bone back together before putting in the plate.

“They were very helpful. They kept calling me from the OR [operating room] and letting me know he was OK, which gave me a lot of confidence and peace,” Hilda said.

Complicating things further, Jamie had a negative reaction to the anesthesia. The Johnsons were the only ones remaining in the OR. A nurse went above and beyond to make sure the mother and son were comforted following a taxing procedure.

“The nurse that was taking care of him stayed over her time taking care of Jamie, which I really appreciated,” Hilda said. “We were away from home and didn’t have anyone down there. Being away from family was really hard, especially when your child is going through a traumatic experience, but the nurse stayed with him until he got better.”

Read part 2 of this story here. Hilda’s story continues with help from attentive ANTHC staff during her son’s stay at Patient Housing at ANMC.


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