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Trauma survivors reunite with life-saving medical teams at HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital

HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital held its first Trauma Survivors Day, reuniting patients with the doctors, nurses, and first responders who saved their lives. The event celebrated the resilience and recovery of trauma survivors.
Dr. Matthew Johnson, HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital’s Trauma Director, shakes the hand of a trauma survivor during the event

In a heartfelt celebration of life and resilience, HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital held its first annual Trauma Survivors Day on Friday, May 24, 2024. The event brought together patients, healthcare professionals, and first responders who played pivotal roles in saving lives and facilitating recovery.

The day began at 11 a.m. with the arrival of guests, followed by an opening address from CEO Zach McCluskey, who acknowledged the significance of the event and the journey that both trauma survivors and their families have undergone. 

  • “It’s really inspiring to think about just how talented our team is,” McCluskey said, expressing gratitude to the dedicated healthcare professionals who have worked tirelessly to provide care during traumatic events. “But as clinicians, we recognize that the skill of our team only goes so far. It takes a lot of resiliency on behalf of our patients so kudos to you for fighting through when it was hard.”

Dr. Matthew Johnson, the hospital’s Trauma Director, emphasized the importance of the event, noting that the trauma team saw over 2,400 cases last year. “This [event] is why we’re here. That’s why we do what we do. It’s for you guys and to see you back in society being completely functional, that’s what drives us to do what we do,” Dr. Johnson said.

Randi Lippy, the Trauma Outreach & Injury Prevention Coordinator, discussed the ongoing support for recovering trauma patients through their Trauma Survivor Network program. 

  • “Know that you’re not alone in your journey. You have this team of folks here to support you and you have the Survivor Network,” Lippy said, highlighting the hospital’s commitment to both physical and mental healing.

Among the survivors was Olivia Day, a recent graduate of Niceville High School, who shared her experience and the road to recovery following a severe car accident on March 18th. 

“I was on my way home, and I don’t remember much of the accident,” Day recounted. “I flew into the ditch. I was the only one in the car, and the car flipped. I was ejected.”

Day suffered a grade five liver laceration, a broken humerus, and a completely torn knee. Dr. Matthew Johnson was one of the doctors who worked tirelessly to save her life. “Dr. Johnson did my internal work, so with my liver, and he stopped the bleeding,” Day explained, expressing her gratitude for the care she received.

  • Despite the severity of her injuries, Day’s recovery has been remarkable. “I’ve been completely taken care of here. The doctors have been extraordinary with the recovery.”

Day’s presence at the Trauma Survivors Day event held a special significance for her. “It means a lot to see people who have gone through similar situations that can understand,” she said. “It feels really special to be here for the first celebration of this and to meet the people that I don’t remember, like first responders. To be able to see them and talk to them, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.”

When asked about her advice for others going through traumatic experiences, Day emphasized the importance of self-care and finding inner peace. Looking towards the future, Day is excited to embrace new opportunities and share her story with others. 

As the day came to a close, a ceremony was held featuring survivor gifts, a butterfly release, and a garden dedication. The symbolism of the red tulip, chosen by the Survivor Network, was particularly poignant. “This flower, the red tulip, represents you, survivors. It represents resilience, rebirth, and new beginnings,” Lippy said.

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