FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It was a powerful moment.
Courtney Utter stepped into an empty room on the second floor of JPS Hospital, and inside, were three of the very people who had saved her life, on the same floor, just weeks ago.
In that moment, tears filled her eyes. Choking back a bit of emotion were those heroes standing next to her. I didn’t even need to ask a question to get things started. Courtney Utter began the reunion, with the people who saved her life, all by herself.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. I wouldn’t. I don’t think the outcome would have been as good as it was, without their quick thinking and quick actions.”
For about an hour, we sat, talked, cried, and even laughed. Courtney’s life changed forever, on January 11th. She had a serious arm injury that was healing after an ATV accident on Christmas Day. She and her husband Steve were just sitting on their living room couch, when a vein graft in Courtney’s left arm, broke open. Think of a water pipe, suddenly cut in half. Only in this case, when the pipe runs out of water, you will die.
Husband Steve drove with one hand, and squeezed Courtney’s upper arm with the other. A human torniquet. That move, for 20 minutes, is without question, the reason the JPS trauma team even had a chance to save her. As we sat in the trauma room, reflecting back on the day, Courtney remembers very little. But Hunter Smith, the nurse who stood at her head and spoke to her during those first frantic four minutes, remembers that day clearly.
“I remember picking you up out of your wheelchair. And they hammer into us that the ABC’s (airway-breathing.) But in trauma it’s typically blood loss. So it clicked with everyone in the room, that we needed to get tourniquets on you.”
Ordinary thoughts for these heroes who do this every day in trauma, extraordinary for the rest of us. Sarah Bell, another nurse in the room that day, spoke to Courtney about a really odd coincidence. Sarah was on duty on Christmas Day, 2016, and was part of the team that treated Courtney during her initial arm injury after an ATV accident. She told Courtney that when she heard her name being said inside the trauma bay on January 11th, she put two and two together. It was Courtney again.
While she doesn’t remember anything after arriving at the hospital, it’s clear by the time she’s spending with the team that saved her, that she can never forget their faces. She looks at them one-by-one. Taking time to see their faces. To listen to their recollections of that day. Taking it all in. But it’s weird. She’s the central character in a movie she really doesn’t remember. But they remember her. And she saw it all play out on TV without even knowing it was her.
Courtney and Steve told us all, that they had watched our story on JPS when it aired in early February, simply because they were so grateful for the staff who saved her. They saw the promos for the story, they decided to watch. Little did they know, or anyone else, that it was Courtney’s story that played out. But after watching it, Steve just knew it was her.
Then the moment comes.
The moment we talk about the price that came with the saving of her life. Courtney’s left arm was now beyond repair. The damage too great to the complicated vascular system that we all take for granted. They had done all they can to try and re-establish blood flow to her entire arm. But despite multiple vascular experts in the operating room, it was not to be. It was a difficult moment. So thankful to be alive and living the rest of your life. But you will now do it without your left arm. Dr Raj Gandhi, part of the team that made that difficult decision, looked at everyone in the room, and then directly at Courtney. He shared exactly how that decision was made. For her. In that moment. So she could understand.
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“We always take care of our patients as if they were our own. So if Courtney were my sister, what would I do? So that clears up any confusion at all. I know exactly what I’m going to do for my sister. And that’s what I’m going to do for Courtney.”
And as Dr. Gandhi, Sara, Hunter and the rest of the staff said, it’s what they do for everybody who comes through those doors at JPS. As Dr. Gandhi told me jokingly, “We don’t care if you arrive in an Armani suit, or a prison jump suit, everyone gets the same level of care at JPS.”
How humbling is the moment? When you can sit with the very same people, who held your precious life in their hands.
Under a stream of thankful tears, came these words.
“It just doesn’t seem like thank you is even enough. It doesn’t come close to what they did. Thank you, just doesn’t seem like enough to say,” said Courtney.