Mom Testimonial: Wrapping up the year with gratitude to TriStar Skyline Medical Center

Patient posing with hospital caregivers
Karey poses with members of her care team from left to right: Lauren Hollis RN, Teresa Armstrong RN, Kelsey Palladino RN, Whitney Christian RN, Brittany Downey RN, Adam Wilson ACNP, Kayla Calabrese RN, Scott Dennis NP, Karey Westrich, Darrell Hunt, MD, Haile Mezghebe, MD, Magen Forgey RN, Rita Kirksey RN, Jennifer Lesley RT, Ashley Vanderpool RN, Tammy Westrich, Shannon Alexander RN

“We are not ready to give up.”

Those words are etched in Tammy Westrich’s memory forever.

Darrell Hunt, MD, associate trauma medical director at TriStar Skyline Medical Center, told her that after a horrific car crash put her daughter, Karey, in the hospital’s trauma intensive care unit (TICU) and a six-weeks-long coma.

She was as sick as a trauma patient could get, Dr. Hunt told ABC Nashville affiliate WKRN of Karey’s condition.

But he didn’t give up. And neither did the team of caregivers entrusted with her daughter’s care. After countless surgeries and nearly three months in the hospital, Karey survived, was home for the holidays and is ready for the new year.

Read on to learn more about a grateful mother’s testimonial and experience at TriStar Skyline Medical Center in Nashville.

Tammy’s Testimonial

Never in my life would I have thought I’d get the phone call I received on a tarmac in Chicago en route back to Nashville. It was the police calling to tell me my daughter was in a horrible car accident and was in emergency surgery at TriStar Skyline Medical Center.

This can’t be real. I could barely think.

I called my husband and told him to go to the hospital NOW! The plane took off. I heard the Captain ask everyone to take a moment of silence and say a prayer for my daughter. Once the plane landed, I called my husband who said “it’s bad” and “she’s not going to make it.” My life stopped.

Karey’s Case

I arrived at the hospital; my husband’s eyes were red from crying. We waited. Finally, three surgeons walked into the waiting area with their heads down. They all looked very serious. Dr. Hunt and trauma surgeons Dr. Hail Mezghebe, who we would later call Dr. Mez, and Dr. Alwyn Harriot introduced themselves and told us the extent of Karey’s injuries.

Deep breath.

She had been ejected from the car, had a grade 4 liver laceration, a traumatic brain injury, and she’d lost a lot of blood.

I grabbed my phone and pulled up a photo of Karey. I wanted them to see her – my beautiful 19-year-old that they were trying to save. I needed them to feel her spirit, not the bloody mess that she was. They went back into surgery to control her bleeding. We prayed that she would live.

Drs. Hunt and Harriot updated us the next time. The outlook was still so dim. We begged them to make her better…to “fix” her. That’s when Dr. Hunt said it, those seven words that I held onto: “We are not ready to give up.”

The Care Team

The doctors later explained that Karey’s body couldn’t take any more surgeries. She needed to rest and they would go back in the next day.  I asked if I could see her. They prepared me for what I would see, then took me to her room. Nothing can brace you to see your child that way.

Betsy (Fisher) was the first nurse I met. She was so kind, soft-spoken and informative, as I asked about each monitor, line, and wire. She watched over Karey for hours, checking monitors and giving more blood, platelets, and plasma. Do these people ever go home, I wondered?

As the sun came up, Paige Whitaker entered the room to ask if she could do anything for me. She was so beautiful and thoughtful.  Then came David (Kerley), my knight in shining armor, who checked on us daily. His demeanor was so gentle. I remember hugging him and thanking him for whatever he was telling me at the time. I’m sure he was giving me a pep-talk.

A new nurse named Dani (Brown) entered our care team.  She was full of love and energy that radiated throughout the room.

Then came a new trauma surgeon, Dr. Hart Tyson, who delivered some much-needed good news. He was able to stop the last bleed. So grateful for the role he played on Karey’s team.

For eight weeks, Karey remained in TICU, where everyone knew her and called her by her name. They became our family and she became theirs.

Tribute to Nurses

We got a chance to know nurse Lauren Hollis who lost her dad within the past year and, because of that, I think, tried even harder to save lives. Then there was Caroline Castelli who reassured me that Karey would be OK. LeRoy Evans was determined to do the best he could for every patient. He made us feel safe.

I felt so honored and blessed to have my soul sister and nurse Samuela Albescu. She was and continues to be a lifeline.

Grace (Chase), Ashley (Vanderpool), Becky (Chick), Jesse (Truman), Rita (Kirksey), Heather (Blue) and Matt Sagraves all cared for and fell in love with this child who laid in a coma.

Karey Comes To

It had been six long weeks when Karey finally opened her eyes.  Drs. Hunt and Mez came running. She looked directly at me. I could tell she knew who I was.

Slowly, she began to get better. She was soon well enough to be transferred to a rehabilitation unit. I didn’t want her to leave Skyline, but the rehab unit was not used to treating someone with Karey’s needs. It would be a challenge – one the team proudly accepted.

Annie (Greer) in rehab was our saving grace.

We would eventually have to continue her rehab at another hospital and, sorry to say, we did not have the same experience. I believe that if you put a person where they are loved and feel safe, they will thrive. And that’s what Annie did for my Karey.

Heroes among us

The compassion, love, knowledge, teamwork and follow through at TriStar Skyline was amazing.You walk into the hospital as a client, a sick person, but you leave as a patient with a name and a story. You live to see another day.

This is what we know, what we saw and what we lived.Patient and mom posing with two male doctors

Drs. Hunt and Mez were our surgical angels. They both were so invested in seeing Karey succeed. Dr. Mez became like a father figure to our family. He chose his words wisely and delivered them to us so delicately – like a father speaks to a child.

Karey continues to get better every day. She wants to be remembered by her Skyline team as their miracle and hopes her story and this testimony will give her caregivers the attention they deserve.

And if anyone is going through a situation like this, remember, in your deepest, scariest moments in life, never give up hope. Trust and have faith that you are in the hands of miracle makers. Dr. Hunt’s words still sit in my head: We are not ready to give up!

Three women with arms around each other

Trauma nurse Samuela Albescu (left) pictured with Karey (center) and Tammy says: “I took care of her (Karey)  for three weeks and she became like one of my own daughters. Her mom became my sister. The journey was incredible. Their faith and strength got them through this difficult situation. The moment she left our unit, and eventually the rehab center, was a moment of celebration. I knew that my Karey was going to be just fine. I always told her how strong she was and that she needed to keep fighting. Then the moment came when they moved to Oregon. I knew that part of my heart would go with her; and it did. I am very happy that she is doing so well. I am very touched every time I think of her. My heart shrinks a little every time. I just love her.”

Woman taking selfie in car

Karey continues to recover with her family in Oregon. She and her mother keep in touch with members of her care team at TriStar Skyline Medical Center, an affiliate of HCA Healthcare. 

TriStar Skyline Medical Center trauma unit and rehab caregivers for Karey

Annie Greer RN, 3rd floor Rehab, says: The day I got to walk Karey to the front door and into her mom’s car was an amazing day! It was a day that she had fought hard for. I was proud of her treatment team, and, most of all, I was thankful to God for providing the team the skills that they needed to help Karey, and giving Karey the faith that she needed to make it back home. Karey is the real reason that she made the recovery that she did – her hard work and determination got her home.  

Darrell Hunt MD, Trauma Surgeon, Associate Medical Director, Trauma Intensive Care Unit Director

Haile Mezghebe MD, Trauma Surgeon

Alwyn Harriot MD, Trauma Surgeon

Betsy Fisher, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Paige Whitaker, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

David Kerley, RN, Trauma Program Director

Dani Brown, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Hart Tyson, MD, Trauma Surgeon

Lauren Hollis, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Caroline Castelli, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Leroy Evans, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Samuela Albescu, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Grace Chase, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Ashley Vanderpool, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Jesse Truman, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Rita Kirksey, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Becky Chick, RN, Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Heather Blue, RN Trauma Services

Matt Sagraves, RN, 5th floor

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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