On Wednesday, May 9, at around 11:30 am EST, a German tourist, was bitten by a shark in Vero Beach, Fla. Thanks to the quick action of local lifeguards and other rescue workers, she received help at the beach until being flown to trauma center Lawnwood Regional Medical Center. Thankfully, after surgery, she was able to recover.

We often speak of “the golden hour” after an emergency event as being the most crucial Dr. James Hurst, Professor of Surgery at University of South Florida and USF/HCA Trauma Network Medical Director puts it this way:

“The golden hour for a trauma victim begins at the time they are injured. Statistics show those seriously injured are more likely to survive and have less chance of having long lasting disability if treated within the hour.”

In May 2009, we opened our trauma center at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center. Later the following year, we partnered with the University of South Florida to form a statewide trauma network dedicated to improving access to quality trauma care and services in Florida. As Dr. Hurst explains, studies show organized trauma centers save lives.

“There is 18% reduction in mortality if treated in a trauma facility” said Hurst. “A Trauma Systems Assessment done by the state of Florida in 2004 showed that only 38% of patients were currently being treated in trauma centers. The recent addition of the HCA/USF Trauma Center has increased the coverage for highly populated areas previously underserved. With the addition of 3 HCA/USF Trauma Centers, one of those being Lawnwood, we would be able to increase coverage to 99% of the population to have coverage within 85 minutes of a center and that Trauma Triage would increase to 65%.”

When I read stories like this, it serves as a reminder of how important it is that residents and visitors to the sunshine state have the fastest access possible to the quality care they need.