Health & Science

Trauma Patients Come Together to Share Stories

Emergency rooms are fast-paced and frenzied. Patients blur by too quickly, sent off to surgery or to a hospital bed. That's why Ben Taub Hospital created an annual gathering for trauma survivors. The patients get to meet their caregivers long after the crisis has passed. And, as KUHF Health Science and Technology reporter Carrie Feibel discovered, it also provides some meaningful closure.


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( “Say hi to all the nurses….”)

Houston police officer Enrique DuHarte was shot four times by a drug suspect in 2001.

Ten years later, he reunites with ambulance workers and nurses who helped care for him at Ben Taub.

“I’ve always wondered if I would ever get to meet them in order to give them a big hug and let them know how I feel about what they did for me.”

The gathering included long-term survivors like DuHarte, but also people who were injured recently.

Shirley Dygert ended up in Ben Taub after a skydiving accident in 2009.

“We got up in the plane, laughing and joking and having a blast.”

Dygert’s a mail carrier from Teague.

She and her son Joe decided to go skydiving for their birthdays. It was their very first time.

“Joe jumped out first and I thought ‘Well, he did it. I’ve got to do it now.’”

Dygert was strapped to her instructor, Dave.

The first chute didn’t open completely. When Dave tried to release the reserve chute, it only became entangled in the first one.

“And so I just asked God to help us. God please help us. And next thing I know Dave is saying ‘Get ready for a really rough landing.’ He knew which cords to pull. He pulled ones at first that brought me face down, and I would have hit the ground first. And he pulled the other ones and put himself underneath me to break my fall.”

Dave ended up almost completely paralyzed. Dygert broke multiple neck vertebrae, and damaged some organs. But after surgery and rest, she recovered completely.

A few days ago, she reunited with her emergency doctor, Angela Fisher.

“It’s not often in an emergency physician’s career that they take care of a patient who survives a skydiving injury. I mean often those people are pronounced at the scene. So I would say Shirley is probably in my top three craziest injuries.”

Fisher says it’s simply wonderful to see her patient thriving again.

“When folks like Shirley walk in and you see them again, you’re reminded of why you do your job. I just – it’s the best part of life.”            

Both doctors and patients talked about how random accidents can happen to anyone, at any time.

Diana Barker was shot in January while having dinner at a restaurant in Kingwood.

“I know mine must be a chance of billions and billions what happened to me. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

A man sitting nearby had a gun in his jacket pocket, and it fell out and hit the floor. A bullet tore through Barker, ripping up her intestines.

Barker says the reunion gave her a chance to thank the trauma workers for their skill and their stoicism.

“Day after day, night after night, you never know what’s coming in. But they handle it just as a matter of fact.”

It’s a reunion that no one would choose to be a part of, but for these trauma survivors it is nevertheless an occasion for gratitude and hope. 

From the KUHF Health Science Technology Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.

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