The emergency room staff at Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta and first responders who rescued eight people injured in a traffic accident on Highway 89 last month are being lauded for their valiant efforts and life saving action.

Cael Weston of Acme Computer calls it a miracle worth celebrating.

The emergency room staff at Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta and first responders who rescued eight people injured in a traffic accident on Highway 89 last month are being lauded for their valiant efforts and life saving action.

To show the community’s appreciation, Acme Computer, Cross Petroleum and Mount Shasta Five Star Kiwanis are holding a banquet in their honor this Saturday at the Mount Shasta Resort.

Because Mercy Mt. Shasta is a Level III trauma facility, their ability to care for an influx of seven patients, three of whom were seriously injured, is being recognized as outstanding by many.

“To my knowledge, at least three of these patients would not have been here today but for the efforts of the Mt. Shasta Ambulance and hospital staff in rapid evaluation, stabilization, triage and excellent treatment of these people,” said Dr. Donald Schepps, the trauma director at Mercy Medical Center Redding.

Schepps gave special kudos to the operating room staff and Drs. John Harch and Gary Herfindahl, who “worked all night in both operating rooms to save these patients,” as well as the many doctors, nurses and other staff members who responded to the emergency – some of whom were not even on call at the time.

Eight people were brought to the emergency room on Wednesday, Dec. 29 after Sharon Lee Mckemey of Dunsmuir lost control of a 2002 Dodge Ram pickup and slid into the opposite lane of the icy roadway, according to a report from the California Highway Patrol. The right side of the Ram collided with the front of a 2004 Jeep Cherokee that David Oscar Cook of McCloud was driving northbound.

There were two passengers in the Ram, including a three year old girl, and four in the Cherokee, including a one year old girl.

Emergency response
Upon hearing of the accident, Mercy immediately  called a trauma activation, which calls in extra staff and puts the surgical team on alert.

Dr. Harch, who was the surgeon on call at the time, said he was notified immediately and was at the hospital when the first two patients came in.

“My job as a trauma surgeon is to look at the people coming in and determine who’s most critically injured,” said Harch. After performing a primary survey of the patients, Harch said he immediately identified one patient with possible head injuries who needed to be transferred to Redding where a neurosurgeon was available. The other needed immediate surgery to stop some dangerous bleeding.

As Harch was heading into surgery, the second wave of patients began arriving. Dr. Herfindahl walked into the ER, and though he wasn’t on call, he said he’d be willing to look over the new arrivals.

Herfindahl identified another patient who needed to be transferred, as well as a second patient who needed immediate surgery.

“For a hospital of this size, this was truly a mass casualty incident,” said Harch.
He said he remembers getting worried when he heard a second surgery was needed, because the entire on-call team was already at work in his OR.

To perform a surgery, Harch explained, a minimum of four people are required, including the surgeon, a surgical technician, an anesthetist, and a circulator. It’s also preferable to have an assistant, though the surgical tech can often fill that role.

“I?heard commotion and before I knew it, I saw they had a team. Some of these people weren’t even on call... emergency room doctors, nurses, lab technicians, x-ray technicians, the maintenance staff, central supply and even those at the front of the hospital who field calls and answer questions for friends and family in the waiting room. It was a huge mobilization of forces.

“Some of these people dropped everything to respond... they might have been about to sit down to dinner or leave for grandma’s house... they could be climbing the mountain or at the ski park, but they came in.”

While Harch and Herfindahl were in surgery, two patients were evacuated to Redding via ambulance. Though two helicopters were available, weather wouldn’t allow them to go up.

“The cloud ceiling had dropped,” Harch said.

Two other patients were admitted to Mercy Mt. Shasta for observation, and both children involved were unharmed.

“We’re fortunate everything turned out well,” Harch said, adding that to his knowledge, all the patients are recovering from their injuries.

Recognizing the effort
“We have an amazing team,” said Mercy Mt. Shasta president Ken Platou.
“While we’re not surprised, we are very grateful and appreciative of the care the entire team at Mercy Mt. Shasta provides our community.”

“I was caught up in the traffic on Highway 89 that day,” said Cael Weston, president and CEO of Acme Computer.  “It was miserably cold and the ice on the highway was half an inch thick. For these first responders and emergency room team to save three lives under such conditions is a miracle – one worth celebrating. These guys are heroes. When we got the chance to throw a banquet in their honor, we jumped at it.”

Kiwanis president Karen Pautz said the banquet “is a small way to recognize the efforts of our excellent medical providers and first responders who make an impact on children’s lives.”

Pautz pointed out that there were two children involved in this particular incident.
“This is an opportunity for us to say thank you to the people who aren’t often recognized... this, of course, isn’t the only time they’ve put in heroic efforts.
Every day they make lives safer by working in our rural communities,” she said.

Invitations were sent out to all emergency and operating room staff at Mercy, as well as the First Responders involved, including Mt. Shasta City Fire Department, Mt. Shasta Fire Protection District, CAL FIRE, and the McCloud Fire Department.