LEE COUNTY, Fla.- WINK News takes you inside Lee Memorial's trauma center for an exclusive look at how the trauma team works.
The trauma center is at Lee Memorial Hospital on US 41 in Fort Myers, and it's the only trauma center between Tampa and Miami.
About 1100 trauma alerts roll in every year, putting Lee Memorial in the top five percent of the busiest in the US for its size.
But trauma alerts aren't just gunshots and stab wounds, most of the patients coming through Lee Memorial are in a car crash or they fall.
Dr. Ernst Vieux is one of five trauma surgeons at Lee Memorial, and says the department hopes to add another. Each serves as the lead surgeon for a 24 hour shift at a time. He says when it comes to trauma, every second counts."We talk about the golden hour, and that golden hour shrinks very quickly. It's kind of a multidimentional puzzle that has to be put together and it has to be done in a finite amount of time."
It costs about $37 million to run the trauma center each year, and there's no local tax money or consistent state funding. A couple hundred thousand dollars a year comes from traffic citations, especially ones that can result in a trauma call- like reckless driving or running a red light.
Dr. Vieux has been a trauma surgeon for 25 years. He says it's the constant sense of urgency that makes a trauma call unlike anything else. "It's a rewarding job. There've been scenarios where you've literally taken somebody who looked like they were dying in your hands one minute, and 15 minutes later, you've turned the direction. And you give them their life back, and that's huge."