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Date: September 7, 2017
Contact Relations: JoAnne K. Clobus, Vice President,
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Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month has special meaning for GCMC Trauma Coordinator

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control, traumatic brain injuries, or TBI’s account for nearly 2.2 million emergency department visits, 280,000 hospitalizations and 50,000 deaths in the United States? September is Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, which has special meaning for Cheryl Pebbles, R.N., trauma coordinator for Grove City Medical Center.

As a Level IV Trauma Center, Grove City Medical Center cares for about 17,000 patients each year, including many with TBI, sustained through sports related injuries, farming accidents, recreational mishaps and motor vehicle crashes. “Our role is to evaluate these injuries and treat them to the level of available resources,” said Pebbles. “Sometimes that means stabilizing and transferring the patient to a Level I Trauma Center.”

One Survivor’s Story—

What began as a serendipitous opportunity to take a motorcycle ride in February, since the weather was a balmy 60 degrees, took a turn for the worse when Bob Pebbles lost control of his Harley in the anti-skid gravel along the edge of the road. “I was not wearing a helmet,” Pebbles recalled. “I figured, ‘why would I need one, I was just going a short distance?’”

Pebbles’ motorcycle rolled on top of him, and he felt a searing pain in his right collar bone and along the right side of his body. “Something sounded like Rice Krispies on the right side of my neck and chest,” he said. He used his cell phone to call his neighbor, who rolled his bike off him and drove him to Grove City Medical Center’s emergency department in the back of his pickup truck.

Pebbles remembers bits and pieces of his time in the emergency department, except for asking staff over and over again to call his wife, who works as a nurse there. After several unsuccessful attempts to reach her by phone, her colleagues reasoned she was probably out riding her horse, so one of the paramedics went out to find her. When she arrived, Pebbles was on his way to have a CT scan, and she intervened. “No contrast for him,” she said. “He nearly died from it once.” Pebbles had told staff he had no allergies.

He was transferred to Allegheny General, where he spent eight hours in the emergency department. His wife told staff, “Work around me, I am not leaving his side.” But, they did insist she leave her spurs at the security desk.

For the next several days, doctors debated on their course of treatment for Pebbles’ traumatic brain injury. Although he didn’t understand the term, he would soon find out what his injury meant in terms of impacting his life. A contractor, previous to his accident, Pebbles did all of his estimating in his head. “Gone, the ability to do all I needed for my livelihood,” he said.

The decision to ride helmet free on that February day has changed the couples’ lives. “Traumatic brain injury not only affects the person involved, but everyone who is close to them,” he said. Although Pebbles’ ability to work was severely impacted, his wife tells him he is still here, and that is what is most important. His son installed apps on his phone to help him calculate measurements and materials that he once did in his head, so that he can continue to work. “My stamina and abilities were changed forever in one instant.”