It was a Saturday afternoon when Salpie and Nishan Basmadjian got the call — the call no parent wants to receive. Their son, Vartan, had been in a car accident, and it was bad. He had been rushed to Huntington Hospital for care. Salpie and Nishan raced here in turn, to see him.
When they arrived, California Highway Patrol officers told them that their son’s car had been completely trapped under a semitrailer. Vartan had a collapsed lung, broken ribs, an eye injury, a punctured intestine, a fractured skull, damage to his spine and other serious injuries. He had a high fever that was not going down, his face was covered in lacerations and he was unconscious. His life hung in the balance.
“The doctors told us everything that was wrong with our son, and I almost passed out,” says Salpie. “It was terrible; just one thing after another — so many problems they had to fix.”
As the largest emergency department and largest trauma center in our region, we have the experts and equipment needed to treat complex cases like Vartan’s. Our medical professionals worked fast to treat his many injuries. One operation, involving a team of 10 physicians and nurses, required six hours to complete. There were times when it looked like Vartan might not make it. On his third day in the hospital, blood began to collect in his lungs, and he again required surgery.
“The first few days were crazy,” says Salpie. She recalls the expertise and kindness of Amal Obaid-Schmid, MD, medical director of trauma services; Danielle Dabbs, DO, who performed the surgery to stop Vartan’s internal bleeding; George Tang, MD, who operated on his spine and pelvis; and Sunil Hegde, MD, who oversaw his inpatient physical therapy. “The people there were a huge support,” she says. “A lung specialist came to check on Vartan several times a day. Every nurse — on the day shift and the night shift — was just wonderful. We were very impressed.”
It would be more than a month before Vartan was well enough to go home. He then participated in outpatient rehabilitation for three months, learning how to walk again. Today, numbness in part of his left foot and occasional pain in his lower back are the only remaining physical reminders that Vartan came so close to death. Thanks to his determination and positive attitude, and the hard work of nurses, surgeons, physical therapists and other medical professionals in our continuum of care, he is back to his old self. He can walk, work and even play basketball again. “After being in the hospital for so long,” Vartan says, “I thought to myself, I don’t want to miss anything else! I was determined to fight to get back to the way I was.”
Donated blood was essential in saving Vartan’s life, and after he recovered, he and his parents organized a blood drive as a way of thanking the hospital and giving something back. (Nishan has since passed away.) “I am grateful to God that Vartan was able to go to Huntington Hospital,” says Salpie. “I think that if he had gone elsewhere, he would not be alive today.”