Dr. Stancie Rhodes had just completed an operation on a stab victim when she received word that a local sheriff’s deputy had suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was en route to the hospital. It was after midnight when the alert was issued and the team – Dr. Rhodes, the emergency department physician, three trauma nurses, radiology, operating room, blood bank, and respiratory therapy attendants – quickly assembled and waited for the officer to come through the trauma bay doors.

This may sound like an episode of a hit medical television drama, but it’s not. It’s real life; and the new normal for an expanded trauma program at HCA-affiliate Trident Medical Center.

Designated as a Level III trauma program in 2014, the North Charleston hospital saw nearly 1,700 trauma patients in its first three years. Earning Level II trauma status this past April, Trident’s trauma program has treated nearly 700 patients already this year.

“A year ago this sheriff’s deputy would not have come to Trident,” Shelby Rivera, the hospital’s trauma program director said. “Because we have elevated the trauma service line here, emergency medical services did not have to bypass our hospital to go elsewhere and she was able to receive timely care.”

Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputy Corporal Kimber Gist, who was shot 10 months ago and treated by Trident Medical’s trauma team, returned to the hospital in May to support its official Level II Trauma announcement.

“I would like to thank the entire staff at Trident Medical Center,” Gist said. “It is no coincidence I was sent there the night of my incident. God already had His plan mapped out, and guided the hands of the staff there.”

“I will always be grateful for the services I have received and continue to receive. Trident is now a part of my extended family and will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you to everyone,” she added.

She is still recovering from her injuries that occurred this past February.

Corporal Gist, was conscious, but in distress when she arrived at Trident last winter. The trauma resuscitation team quickly assessed her condition, ran ultrasounds and X-rays in the trauma bay and deemed her stable enough for advanced imaging. They needed to determine the location of the bullet and what, if any, internal damage it had done.

Dr. Rhodes, the primary trauma surgeon, ordered a CT scan and called her backup – as is protocol with Trident’s trauma system – knowing she would likely need to operate on Cpl. Gist.

“All of our preliminary studies in the trauma bay showed no evidence of internal injuries,” Dr. Rhodes said, a training product of Shock Trauma Center, one of the premier centers in the nation.

“Once in a while you get surprised. Bullets can do some crazy things and sometimes stay in the soft tissue without injuring an internal organ. Then the patient doesn’t necessarily need an operation,” she added.

Unfortunately, the CT scan proved differently and Cpl. Gist was rushed to an operating room. There, Dr. Rhodes and the trauma surgical team spent the next three hours performing life-saving surgery on the then 25-year-old deputy.

“She did very well,” Rhodes recalled. “Sadly, it’s often the young people who need trauma surgery, but they also respond to it really well. If you fix them, they heal.”

And heal she has, but not completely.  Cpl. Gist, who is expected to make a full recovery, continues to receive therapy on her left foot at Trident Medical.

The continued show of support by her family, friends and “brothers and sisters in blue” has not been lost on Trident’s trauma team, especially Dr. Rhodes, whose cousin, coincidentally, had served as a member of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office.

“When Cpl. Gist came in that night, the connection never occurred to me,” she said. “I was just doing what I was trained to do – everyone was.”

Her cousin died unexpectedly of complications from pneumonia just more than one year ago. But Dr. Rhodes will never forget the outpouring of love and support from this law enforcement family.

“They traveled to our hometown in West Virginia and created a huge funeral procession in my cousin’s honor. And then held a beautiful memorial ceremony posthumously here in Charleston,” she said. “It was very touching.”

“So, to happen upon this opportunity at Trident and be able to give back to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office that served my family so well was such a pleasure and a remarkable closing of the circle.”

Dr. Rhodes and the rest of the Trident Medical Center Trauma team are privileged to provide faster access to care for the city’s trauma patients, like Corporal Kimber Gist, during their most critical hours.

“It’s rare to get an opportunity to help someone who was doing their job and was in the right place at the right time, and unfortunately, had something bad happen,” Dr. Rhodes said. “It’s an incredible gift to be able to do that – it’s what we train years for. And to be a part of a team that works so well together and to do something really good, it makes you feel good. Once in a while, you get those little pearls.”

HCA Physician trauma team

Dr. Stancie Rhodes and Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputy Corporal Kimber Gist.