For Shands Fletcher West, everything changed in a split second.
The 28-year-old from Apopka was driving on Interstate 4 near Sanford on Feb. 27 when a car in front of him halted abruptly. West swerved to avoid hitting the car but his truck clipped a guard rail and overturned seven times. He was ejected on the fourth or fifth flip.
Emergency crews rushed West to a neuroscience intensive care unit at a nearby hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma. Doctors determined that he had significant head trauma and required immediate surgery to reduce the intracranial pressure, or ICP, in his brain. A normal ICP range is between 4 to 12, but West’s was 51. After three days, doctors began draining fluid to alleviate the pressure.
“In his hospital room, he looked like a Christmas tree of IVs,” said Jessica Dutreil, West’s fiancée.
Over the next three weeks, his ICP levels continued to shift. Wendy Clow, B.S.N., R.N., CCRN, a UF Health ShandsCair flight nurse and acquaintance of West’s family, checked on him often. She also encouraged his support team to transfer him to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville with ShandsCair, if the opportunity arose.
Meanwhile, doctors remained hesitant about moving West considering his high ICP level. But once his brain pressure dropped to a more stable level, his family opted to transfer him to UF Health in Gainesville via ShandsCair, knowing that the flight team had the necessary tools and capability to transport West from one facility to another.
“Wendy had mentioned ShandsCair during the first week into his hospital stay and again after a few weeks. She said to us, if you want to get the ball rolling, she would see what she could do. After multiple family conversations, Shands father, Michael West, and mother, Sandy Maier, decided ShandsCair and UF Health Shands Hospital was their son’s best option” Dutreil said.
“The next day, Shands was being transported in the ShandsCair helicopter and going to Gainesville,” she said. “The ShandsCair team was extremely organized and very professional. It came natural to them.”
From March 17 until April 14, West was treated and monitored at UF Health for his brain injury and additional health concerns, including a right leg injury, a high fever and difficulty breathing.
A week into his hospital stay in Gainesville, the ShandsCair crew who transported him came to visit the patient and his family at the hospital.
“ShandsCair is the best you can find in the Southeast. I wouldn’t be here without them,” West said. “I thank God every day.’’
With his condition improving, West was transported by ShandsCair ambulance to an outside rehabilitation facility and then returned to his home in Apopka on July 20.
“I would’ve never thought we’d be where we are now,” Dutreil said. “We are very blessed.”
“I’d like to thank Wendy for doing everything she has done,” West said. “For Wendy making this happen and the ShandsCair team for helping me – I can’t thank them enough.”