Last year, during a snow tubing excursion with her classmates, 14-year-old Shivani took an ordinary spill. But as she walked down the icy hill back towards the ski lodge, she was struck from behind by a double snow tube moving at high speeds. She fell to the ice, sustaining a direct hit to her skull. The impact left her unconscious.
When Shivani awoke several minutes later, medics were arranging transport to a nearby urgent care facility. Upon her arrival she was reunited with her parents, Aruna and Marthand, and examined for a possible concussion. But when she failed to demonstrate any major symptoms, doctors sent her home for observation.
Something Isn’t Right
As Shivani and her parents approached their home, her symptoms changed quickly and dramatically. “She developed a severe headache and somehow knew her brain had begun to bleed,” recalls Aruna. As they raced back to urgent care, Shivani pleaded with them to hurry. “She kept yelling ‘drive, drive, drive!’” says Aruna. “She instinctively knew that something was terribly wrong.”
A CT scan revealed an epidural hematoma, a type of internal brain bleed that can often result from a skull fracture. Because epidural hematomas are sometimes mistaken for a mild concussion — it takes several hours for pressure to build up inside the brain — they can be fatal if undetected. Shivani was rushed to the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center operated by Regions Hospital and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.
Emergency Procedure Saves Shivani’s Life
Upon Shivani’s arrival, the Regions trauma team performed another CT scan and shared the results with Gillette pediatric neurosurgeon Patrick Graupman, M.D. As Shivani’s symptoms progressed from a severe headache to fatigue and disorientation, he mobilized the team for immediate surgery. “It was terrifying to see a doctor literally running into the operating room,” remembers Aruna.
Graupman and Regions trauma surgeons made an incision into Shivani’s skull and drained the blood putting dangerous pressure on her brain. Following the successful procedure, Shivani spent four days recovering from the brain injury in Gillette’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). During that time, Shivani’s older sisters — both physicians — had the opportunity to review her CT scans. “At that point, we all realized how close Shivani had come to dying,” recalls Aruna.
A Life and Death Difference
For more than a year after her accident, Shivani received outpatient care — including rehabilitation therapies and neurotrauma services—to address issues with headaches and getting back to normal life. Now fully recovered, she has new appreciation for how quickly life can change. “She realizes that life is not something to take for granted,” explains Aruna. “She looks at the world differently now.”
The family credits the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center’s pediatric expertise and quick action for saving Shivani’s life. “Dr. Graupman and his team made the difference between life and death for our daughter,” says Aruna. “From the trauma surgeons to the fantastic nurses and PICU staff, we knew Shivani was in the best possible hands at all times.”
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