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Trauma patient comes back to Portneuf to thank all who saved her life

Doctors and nurses save a lot of lives every day but what they don’t often get is a personal thank you from the patients themselves.

For the first time ever, a surviving trauma patient came back to Portneuf Medical Center to thank her entire emergency care team.

Just a few months ago, Itati Hernandez was in a wheelchair and unable to walk. In September, Hernandez was a passenger in a car when it was involved in an accident on Interstate 84 near Burley. The car swerved to avoid a deer, overcorrected, and rolled several times. Hernandez was ejected from the car and thrown 20 feet. She was life flighted to PMC and its trauma team took over her care.

“She had injuries pretty much from head to toe,” said Dr. Drew McRoberts, PMC’s trauma director. “They were very significant and immediately upon arrival here, she was really unable to breathe on her own and required us to really kind of take control of her breathing, to also make sure then she had not lost too much blood. She subsequently required numerous surgical procedures to stabilize broken bones, including her back, her pelvis and her lower extremities.”

Hernandez had a broken clavicle, three broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a lacerated kidney, several damaged vertebrae, including a compressed vertebrae, torn ligaments and a brain injury.

Now, just a few months later, she’s able to walk on her own and said she’s doing very well.

She wanted to say thank you to the people who helped her survive – all 26 of them. Twenty-five trauma tea members, plus the spinal surgeon who worked with Hernandez.

“I felt like I needed to give back to my team that helped me out because not just me, but anyone who comes to the hospital, they give so much of their time so we need to be able to recognize them,” Hernandez said.

So she made the trip from Heyburn to thank them and give them each a special gift.

She gave them each an “angel pin” – a pin with the universal medical symbol with added angel wings.

“In a way they are like my guardian angel, they helped me out,” she explained. “I mean, I was in a life and death situation and they saved me to stay here and so I decided little angel wings on a pin would represent that.”

“Certainly it makes us all feel very, very good and Itati deserves a lot of the credit because I’m sure while all of our patients who recover from injuries like this, feel grateful, few make the effort to come back and publicly acknowledge us in the way she has,” McRoberts said. “That by itself is very special. She’s a small person with a very big heart.”

Being able to see her line of heroes altogether again, Hernandez said is very humbling and very emotional.

“I wanted to cry, there was just so much emotion, I was shaking, my legs felt weak,” she described. “I mean, thank goodness for my brace to keep me up but it was just really emotional.”

Hernandez said she still has some recovery to go through but she’s doing great and she’ll always remember her care team at PMC that became her friends and her guardian angels.

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