Expert care from the team at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center – the region’s only Level I Trauma Center – helped Timothy survive from life-threatening injuries after he was shot five times during a home invasion.

News, Your Health | one year ago

After Surviving Five Gunshot Wounds During a Home Invasion, Timothy Gives Thanks to Level I Trauma Center

Expert care from the team at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center – the region’s only Level I Trauma Center – helped Timothy survive from life-threatening injuries after he was shot five times during a home invasion.

After Timothy Stephens was shot five times during a home invasion, he was rushed to Scotland Memorial Hospital, a regional hospital affiliated with Atrium Health in Laurinburg, N.C. He underwent emergency surgery there before being airlifted to the region’s only Level I trauma center at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

Upon hearing the news, Timothy’s mother, Hazel McPhatter, jumped in the car to make the two-hour drive and braced for a report on her son. “The trauma team came in and told me they didn’t like the way it was looking,” she says. “They said they were going to go in and do something else to help.”

Doctors in Laurenburg had performed emergency, life-saving surgery by removing Timothy’s spleen and operating on his pancreas and small intestines before he was transported. But Ryan Pickens, MD, one of his primary surgeons at Carolinas Medical Center (CMC), said Timothy still needed additional medical attention under the care of the Level I trauma team in order to survive.

Dr. Pickens says the trauma team at CMC is accustomed to a high volume of patients with penetrating injuries to abdominal organs. Such wounds are challenging and often difficult to recover from because the organs are in close proximity to each other. Emergency surgery to stop the bleeding from life-threatening injuries is required before other possible injuries are diagnosed and treated.

In Timothy’s case, those included spinal fractures which had consequently resulted in paralysis.

“We suspected a spinal cord injury,” Dr. Pickens says. “But it took time for him to awaken from surgery and recover from the repaired injuries to do further work and diagnose the spinal cord injury.”

A Miracle to Be Alive

Timothy says he has no recollection of the several days between the night he was shot and the time he realized he was in the hospital. “I remember my wife ran out the back door and the invaders ran away,” he says. “I called the ambulance. The police came. Then I went to the hospital and I was unconscious. That’s all I remember.”

He spent nearly two months at CMC, the first two weeks in the Surgical Trauma ICU. His recovery was anything but smooth, which isn’t unusual based on the severity of his injuries. The pancreas is extremely delicate and his damage required multiple procedures. At one point, he even experienced sudden cardiac arrest, which led him to be resuscitated and transferred back to intensive care.

“He was in a very tenuous status for much of his early hospitalization,” Dr. Pickens says. “The whole trauma evaluation process is not a single event. For critically injured patients, it takes several days of careful monitoring and observation as they recover to continually identify additional injuries associated with what happened to them.”

Throughout the first week of her son’s hospitalization and the several surgeries he underwent, Hazel remembers the doctors’ encouragement when she wasn’t sure Timothy would survive. “We were there every day, his wife or myself,” she says. “The doctors kept coming in and talking to us, saying he’s a strong young man to still be here. It’s a miracle that he made it after being shot that many times.”

The Most Expert Trauma Care

Hazel noticed a great difference in Timothy once he was discharged from the hospital to Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation. Before then, he often became frustrated while lying in bed, unable to do much of anything for himself. One highlight that sticks out from her son’s rehabilitation is finally seeing him come down the hallway by himself in his wheelchair.

“He had two very good therapists who worked with him a lot,” Hazel says. “They helped him get to where he is now, able to do lots of things for himself. The doctors were great, too.”

“All of it was challenging,” Timothy says about his recovery, which has continued in outpatient therapy since his discharge. “I prayed that I’d still be here. Everything I did was a challenge.”

Dr. Pickens says working at the region’s only Level I trauma center is “truly a blessing. We get the sickest patients, but we also have an incredible wealth of resources, the highest-trained staff, and the most dedicated personnel whose job it is to take care of those patients.”

CMC provides the highest level of comprehensive care for critically injured patients and responds to any type of traumatic injury, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The in-house team of acute-care surgeons and subspecialists like neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and plastic surgeons – plus the designated operating rooms, CT scanners, trauma-accredited nursing staff, and other features – make the care unparalleled. The center is the only in the area to offer programs such as the Trauma Survivors Network and provides a trauma education and research program. 

Hazel was skeptical at first, worried about her son.  But she’s convinced that Carolinas Medical Center was the best choice, to the point that they continue to use rehab services in Charlotte opposed to a closer location.

“I really feel that without that team of nurses and doctors and God working through them, my son wouldn’t be here now if he didn’t get there that night.”