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Nicholas Velasquez: Drunk Driving Victim Finds a Hero

Jul 19, 2010

Nicholas Velasquez: Drunk Driving Victim Finds a HeroToday, trauma surgeons around the country are often able to save patients who may have been lost two decades ago—patients like Nicholas Velasquez.

Nicholas, a six-year old San Antonio boy, held on to life by a thread after a drunk driver slammed head-on into his family’s car as they were on their way home from the pet store. The crash left him in critical condition, the vehicle a mangled mess of metal and plastic and broken glass.

The highly trained paramedics who arrive at the scene within minutes were able to stabilize the first-grader enough to transport him, with sirens screaming, to University Hospital in San Antonio—a Level 1 Trauma Center fully staffed with surgeons and specialists around-the-clock.

Nicholas’ abdominal wall was destroyed, his intestines severely injured and his aorta torn. In addition, his spine was broken and, due to blood loss, he had vascular complications in his legs. He was not expected to live after that horrific night.

Two years later, however, Nicholas was playing soccer. “He is definitely one of the sickest children we’ve taken care of who survived,” said Ronald Stewart, the attending trauma surgeon at University Hospital that evening.

His mother, Angelica, is grateful every day for the gift of life that Dr. Stewart and every trauma care professional—from the paramedics to the rehabilitation specialists—gave her son in the many long months between the collision and his return to a normal, happy childhood.

“Dr. Stewart is absolutely our hero!” she said.

Yet, there are still many people who need a hero, and there is still much room for improvement in the trauma community—there are thousands more people who could survive their traumatic injuries, and thrive like Nicholas, if only the right treatments were available. More than 170,000 people in the United States die each year, and hundreds of thousands more are disabled as a result of traumatic injury.

It is critical that we improve the treatment of trauma so that every victim has the chance to live a productive and happy life like Nicholas—and the key to that improvement is research. Funding for trauma research needs heroes so that more trauma victims can live happy productive lives!

-by Pam Bixby,