Changing outcomes for trauma survivors

Joseph Macchione feels Sunnybrook's elite trauma team gave him a second chance at life. He's determined to make the most of it.

Days after finishing Grade 12, Joseph and his buddies headed to a park west of Toronto to fish. "All I can remember is getting out of the car and walking down the path," Joseph says. His next memory is of awakening in hospital days later. Friends tell him that as they walked along a trail, he turned to them and slipped, falling to an embankment. The ground gave way and Joseph plunged 100 feet into a shallow river.

A friend performed emergency CPR and Joseph was airlifted to Sunnybrook. Paramedics resuscitated him on the way. When he reached the hospital, massive internal bleeding meant Joseph's heart had stopped and he was effectively dead.

But Sunnybrook's trauma team, led by surgeon-in-chief Dr. Avery Nathens, was standing by, ready to act the moment Joseph arrived. They opened his chest, restarted his heart and sent him to the operating room to stop his severe internal bleeding.

Joseph's mother, Carmen Tavares, had never been to Sunnybrook before what she says was "the worst day of my life". But she had always been aware of its reputation for caring for the most severely injured people in Ontario. "When I heard Joseph was at Sunnybrook, I knew it was serious. But I also knew he was in good hands. I knew that if Sunnybrook couldn't help him, nobody could."

Sunnybrook is an international leader in trauma system design. Dr. Nathens is globally renowned for his work in this area, says trauma centre medical director, Dr. Homer Tien, also chief medical officer for Ornge, the province's air and land ambulance system.

After three weeks in hospital, Joseph is home, continuing to gain strength on his way to a full recovery. He is investigating various post-secondary school options and planning for a future he almost didn't have. "I felt like Joseph was in the right place," Carmen says. "These are the best doctors in Canada. I owe that hospital my life."