Because of my orthopaedic care, I can graduate from high school and begin my college years.
Orthopaedic Surgeon and Lake County’s Level 1 Trauma Center Work to Restore Young Life
Warren High School senior Phillip Brahm will keep the beat and begin his college years in the fall thanks to the surgical skill of orthopaedic surgeon Gregory Caronis, M.D. and the Advocate Condell Medical Center’s Level 1 Trauma team.
Brahm, a member of Warren’s marching band and a well-known figure on the drum line, was coming home in December from working at his family’s business when he was involved in a severe, head-on collision that left the 17-year-old student critically injured.
“I remember driving home after work,” said Brahm. “The next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital bed.” Brahm helps at the family business as well as with the care of his two disabled siblings.
He was transferred immediately from the scene of the accident to Advocate Condell Medical Center where Dr. Caronis was called and the trauma team began to work in concert to stabilize his condition. Brahm’s injuries included a badly fractured right arm, left thigh and both ankles along with a life-threatening injury to his aorta that sent his blood pressure plummeting.
“Phillips’s leg was severely injured,” said Caronis. “I was applying an orthopaedic appliance to stabilize the leg while the trauma surgeon worked to stop the bleeding and control Phillip’s crashing blood pressure.” Caronis added, “The trauma team really worked in concert that day – we all did our jobs as quickly and effectively as possible to allow each other to manage our particular part of the situation.” Phillip subsequently underwent an open chest procedure to stem the aortic tear and repair his fractured sternum.
Had Brahm’s accident occurred less than ten years ago, the outcome may have been quite different. Advocate Condell Medical Center became Lake County’s only Level 1 trauma center just last year – a designation given only to hospitals with qualified trauma personnel and the facilities to handle patients with complex, life-threatening conditions. Advances in orthopaedic surgery over recent years have also enabled surgeons to treat traumatic injuries more effectively and with improved outcomes.
Caronis, a partner of Greenleaf Orthopaedics Associates and one of Advocate Condell’s top orthopaedic trauma surgeons, took Brahm from the intensive care unit (ICU) to surgery on several occasions to repair his multiple fractures. His open wound was washed out in the operating room to reduce the risk of a potentially deadly bone infection.
“We’ve learned that staging of orthopaedic trauma surgery results in better outcomes,” said Caronis who has completed a state-of-the-art fellowship in orthopaedic trauma surgery. “Breaking a large, complicated surgery into smaller surgeries allows us to better plan the approach to correcting traumatic injuries and minimizes the invasiveness of the surgery,” he explained.
Stainless steel plates and screws were used to stabilize Phillip’s fractures, and the long journey back to health began. “I remember walking into the ICU one morning early on in Phillip’s hospitalization, and he could not respond with his left side,” remembered Caronis. “We feared the worst,” Caronis said,” and what followed was a discussion that you never want to have with a family – much less with the parents of a young person.”
Brahm slowly began to improve, however, with his multiple trauma sites healing and his body recovering from the tremendous shock of the accident. “I’ll never forget walking into Phillip’s room on rounds and finding him propped in bed playing on a drum pad with his non-injured arm,” said Caronis. The drummer was back. What followed was three months of difficult, painful rehabilitation services at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). Brahm would have to learn how to stand and eventually how to walk again.
During his early days of recovery, Brahm maintained an upbeat, grateful attitude that inspired the medical personnel involved in his care. He returned home from RIC and resumed his involvement with siblings and friends, including the young drummers that he helped support at a recent middle school solo and ensemble contest.
Follow-up visits to Greenleaf Orthopaedics to see Caronis showed a tremendous improvement in Brahm’s physical strength along with remarkable flexibility in his arm and ankles after such a significant accident. “I’ve been practicing,” said Brahm. “My right arm is my drumming arm, and I have two bass drum pedals,” he added. Drumming has been his best form of physical therapy.
A significant percent of orthopaedic trauma patients have permanent disability from their injuries, and some don’t survive such severe trauma. Fortunately for this talented young man, Brahm has returned to finish out his senior year at Warren High School and continues to work daily on recovering his strength and full range of motion. He recently joined with two of his fellow band members to compete in the regional high school Solo and Ensemble competition where he received the contest’s highest mark of for his performance.
With an interest in engineering, Brahm is looks forward to starting college. “It’s just great to be alive,” he says.
“There are those patients who inspire and those patients who are blessed with a remarkable recovery,” stated Caronis. “Phillip meets both of those criteria, he added. “His case has left an imprint on everyone involved in his care.”