They Saved My Life

They Saved My Life
Patient Name : Dwight Diller

Dwight Diller took Friday, August 6, 2004, off from work to complete some errands and have dinner with a friend. Dwight enjoyed counseling students with disabilities at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. Having cerebral palsy, he had benefited greatly from such resource centers while he pursued his bachelors and masters degrees. Dwight loved helping others.

On this particular day, the sun set in the western sky as the thirty-four year old man returned home from Orlando. Clouds filled the darkening sky, and rain had just started to fall. What happened next, no one knows for sure. But, just before Dwight merged onto Interstate 75 from the Florida Turnpike, his red two-door Acura spun out of control. The car crossed the grassy median and came to a stop, broadside across the northbound lanes. And stalled.

Startled, Dwight unclipped his seat belt and climbed from his car. All he could see were white headlights coming right for him. Waving his arms, he tried to stop the car. At the last second, the car swerved around him and came to a stop further down the interstate. The drivers of that car saw everything that happened next.

More cars swerved around him and his car, he was trapped. Bright lights whizzed by on the right and left. He ran back to the driver’s side, his cerebral palsy making it difficult for him to move quickly. He lowered his body into the car and tried to get his left foot in the door, when headlights suddenly filled his vehicle. It was too late; the truck hit him at full speed crushing his car.

The Orlando Regional Air Care Team received the dispatch and quickly put the helicopter in the air towards Interstate 75. Nearly there, the darkness, rain and low ceiling threatened to send the helicopter back to Orlando. “I drove an ambulance in Sumter County for 12 years, I can still get us there safely,” paramedic Richard Shaffer said through his mouthpiece. In a few minutes, they arrived on the scene where the paramedic team removed Dwight through the back window of his mangled car. “We worked the entire flight to ORMC to keep Dwight alive,” explains Libby Hays, RN. “He had suffered severe trauma and was unresponsive. His blood pressure dropped low indicating internal bleeding. And his right arm and left foot were obviously broken.” The Air Care Team delivered him to the ORMC trauma team; nearly fifteen people awaited his arrival. 

The ring of the phone interrupted the quiet calm of Leon and Sara Diller’s home late in the evening; it was a chaplain from Orlando Regional Medical Center. “Are you related to Dwight Diller?” the chaplain asked. Leon fought to shake the cobwebs from his sleepy mind and understand the question. “I am his father,” he slowly answered. “Your son is in the Orland Regional Level One Trauma Center in critical condition,” the chaplain explained. The chaplain advised him to drive safely and took down Leon’s cell phone number should the trauma team need to consult with him on Dwight’s treatment. Leon looked at his wife, her eyes already wide with alarm, and told her the little he knew.

The trauma team worked to assess Dwight’s injuries—three fractures in his back, a collapsed lung, a lacerated liver and kidney, shattered upper arm and broken ankle. In the first twenty-four hours at ORMC, Dwight needed forty-six units of blood products-plasma, platelets and blood. “One nurse stayed three hours over her twelve hour shift just to keep him alive. When his body wanted to shut down, she stayed by his side,” shares Leon in his great appreciation. “It is hard to see your child in the prime of his life in a situation where you are not sure if he is going to make it. It is incredibly painful,” Sara, Dwight’s mother shares.

Dwight remained in a medically induced coma for ten days while his body stabilized. Two weeks after the crash, Dwight woke up. He still had tubes down his throat, but he mouthed the question, “What happened?” After learning about the car crash he asked, “Was anyone else hurt?” His father responded, “No,” and Dwight raised his hand and gave a thumbs up. He stayed in the Intensive Care Unit for an additional nine days. One day, a man walked in with a smile across his face, and said, “You are looking a lot better than the first time I saw you.” Dwight looked at him in confusion. “I am the surgeon who got you right off the helicopter,” said Sidney Callahan, MD. “If it had not been for the Air Care Team and the trauma team, I would not have made it. If it were not for you, I would be dead,” Dwight said as he attempted to put his gratitude in words. But words could not express the miracle they both witnessed.

A total of forty-two days passed before Dwight was ready for rehabilitation. He left ORMC in an ambulance with another thumbs up as he traveled to a rehab center closer to his home. “It was hard to leave ORMC; the nurses always answered the bell when I called. I now know it is not like that everywhere.”

“Due to the severity of his injuries, no one expected him to make it,” Leon shares. Two months after the crash, Dwight returned home. But it was then that an MRI revealed that Dwight’s T11 vertebrate was very unstable. The Dillers returned to ORMC for an appointment with the neurosurgeon that initially worked on Dwight in the trauma center.

Melvin Field, MD, grabbed the chart and entered the examination room. But what he saw surprised him, the patient’s name was Dwight Diller. He glanced at Dwight and back at the chart, all the time his mind racing. Finally he said, “Dwight do you know how lucky you are? I didn’t think you were with us anymore.” “We appreciated his honesty and his ability to communicate with us. He always went out of his way, even calling us twice at 7:30 at night. He is one terrific neurosurgeon,” Leon shares.

On November 29, Dr. Field performed surgery on Dwight’s back to repair the injury to his spine and release the dangerous pressure. Everything went well. During the week while Dwight recovered from the painful back surgery, many from the original team came to visit him, everyone had heard about the guy they called the “miracle boy.” On the day of his transfer to the rehab center, ORMC team members lined the halls to say goodbye as Dwight rolled by on the stretcher. “I started crying. I didn’t want to leave. The 4th floor was like going to a family reunion; they were such a pleasure.” Leon teased his son, “I have never seen anyone cry when they had to leave a hospital before,” but knew they all felt the same about ORMC – there was nothing else like it.

“I would not be here if it weren’t for the Air Care Team and Level One Trauma Center,” Dwight says. “They did everything to save my life.”