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Doctors calling Burley teenager a miracle after he survives a long night of close calls

A Burley teenager is being called a medical miracle after several close calls in one night.

16-year-old Wyatt Bruesch’s heart stopped three different times and he underwent an emergency life-threatening operation but now, he’s doing well.

Bruesch has been riding bulls for about the last year. But just last Saturday – at a high school rodeo in Burley – a nasty accident nearly ended his bull riding days for good.

“Mostly what I can remember is when I nodded they opened the shoot and I rode for a jump and then got bucked off and the bull was away from me for a minute and then he came back to me and hooked his horn under my chest and just kind of trampled my chest,” Bruesch described. “Then they put me in an ambulance and then they put me out and the next thing I remember is waking up here in Portneuf.”

“He was wearing appropriate protective equipment,” said Dr. Drew McRoberts, the trauma director at Portneuf Medical Center, as he described Bruesch’s injury. “However, he sustained a severe injury because bulls weigh over 2,000 pounds and a hoof can cause significant injury and we’ve even seen deaths from this exact injury.”

After the accident, EMS quickly took Bruesch to Cassia Regional Hospital in Burley. While there, his heart stopped. Doctors were able to bring him back and stabilize him. Knowing he needed a higher level of care, he was immediately flown to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, which is a level two trauma center.

“On arrival here, he clinically got much worse, or deteriorated,” McRoberts recounted. “And the emergency department trauma surgeon on call, Dr. Jorge Amorim, then performed a life-saving emergency department thoracotomy. That means he opened his chest, massaged his heart and basically saved his life.”

An ED thoracotomy is only done as a last resort, a last ditch effort, said McRoberts.

“You don’t perform it until the patient is literally at death’s doorstep and about ready to die,” he said.

But Bruesch’s heart had now stopped three times that night so Dr. Amorim wasn’t left with much choice.

While Amorim was performing the thoracotomy, backup he had called in arrived – Dr. Terry Rager.

“I came in the back door of the trauma bay and there was Dr. Amorim in a t-shirt and jeans with his arm in almost up to the elbow in the patient’s left chest,” Rager, a trauma and general surgeon, described.

Amorim was able to massage the heart and get it started again, but he also did something else by opening Bruesch up in the emergency room.

“What he was able to do once he got into the patient’s chest is he actually reached deep down, what we call the hilum of the lung where the great vessels come into the lung and just squeezed,” Rager said of Amorim’s procedure. “And that stopped any further blood. When he opened up the chest, a great amount of blood came out of it.”

The doctors all agree that the odds of surviving an ED thoracotomy are extremely low, which is why they’re rarely done.

McRoberts said in the U.S., the odds of surviving are 7% and lower, meaning the odds of dying during the procedure is between 93% and 95%.

But Bruesch beat those odds.

“We reviewed our statistics here and this is the first survival that we’ve had since, as we say, the turn of the century,” McRoberts added.

However, Bruesch wasn’t out of the woods yet.

“We encountered him in the operating room and then there was a big gash in the lung – a big tear,” described Dr. Jacob Delarosa, chief of cardiac and thoracic surgery at PMC. “And one of the reasons is that he had a bone that also was like a sharp knife and it had broken and it was also stabbing into the lung besides the pressure of the whole bull just busting the lung, and so we had to put that together. When you put that together, it’s like putting wet paper together. It’s just trying to make it stick on a lung and it’s very difficult to put together. But the team was able to put it together and we were able to get him out of that operating room and into ICU.”

Bruesch is now doing very well, despite broken ribs, broken vertebrae and a sore lung.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that staff right there,” he said when asked how grateful he was to the medical teams who saved him. “They’re the ones that did everything in their power to keep me alive. They went to unstoppable lengths to make sure that I survived.”

As for getting back on the bulls, Bruesch said he doesn’t plan to do anything else.

“It’s just going to postpone it a couple weeks and then when I’m healed up, I’ll get back on,” he added with a smile.

Though Dr. Delarosa said it’ll be more like a couple months before he’s ready to get back on a bull.

Friday the doctors are taking out the chest tube still in Bruesch’s chest. If that goes well, Bruesch will be able to go home Friday.

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