Patrick Hamilton loaded up the shiny new dirt bike in his Jeep and headed to a track in Grain Valley, Mo., one Saturday morning in September 2011. The 51-year-old wanted to break in the machine’s motor and thought several spins around the racetrack during an open session would do the trick.
But Hamilton, an attorney, husband and father of two from Shawnee, Kan., broke in more than his bike’s motor that crisp fall morning. Most likely after an unsuccessful attempt to clear a jump on the popular motocross track, Hamilton and his bike crashed—hard. Hamilton, outfitted in layers of protective clothing, including a helmet, gloves and body suit, was rendered unconscious following the mid-air tumble. Though his bike was relatively unscathed, the ejected rider lay crumpled on the ground, face down in the mud.
“I don’t remember exactly what happened,” says Hamilton. “No one on the track saw the incident, either.”
But Hamilton was, as they say, in a world of hurt.
Hamilton suffered eight broken ribs on his left side, a collarbone shattered in four places and a punctured and collapsed left lung.
An ambulance transported Hamilton to Centerpoint Medical Center, and he was later transferred to Overland Park Regional Medical Center (OPRMC), an acute-care hospital and Johnson County’s only Trauma Center. Both hospitals are part of HCA Midwest Health System, Kansas City’s largest healthcare network.
Hamilton was admitted to OPRMC’s intensive care unit following stabilization by emergency room physicians. He remained there for 30 days during which time his physician, Adam Kaye, MD, a general and trauma surgeon at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, performed an innovative procedure known as rib plating. The surgery saved Hamilton’s life—although he didn’t know it at the time.
“Patrick had more broken ribs than I’ve ever treated at one time,” says Dr. Kaye. “Essentially his respiratory system was failing prior to surgery. The rib plating, which fuses broken ribs together with bendable titanium plates, allowed him to get off the ventilator and begin recovery. For a patient with extensive injuries such as Patrick, this was remarkable.”
Rib plating isn’t a fix-all for every scenario. However, Dr. Kaye says patients with more than three broken and displaced ribs may benefit from this relatively new procedure that offers proper fit for the shape of human ribs. “Rather than having to cope with sometimes life-long effects of broken ribs such as trapped nerves, breathing issues, malunion or misalignment of healed bone, and relying on medications to relieve chronic pain, trauma patients like Patrick Hamilton can breathe easier with this surgery,” says Dr. Kaye.
Dr. Kaye has performed more than 16 of the rib plating surgeries on people between 30 and 70 years old since May 2011. “It’s my hope this surgery will become a standard of care for people with injuries like Patrick’s,” says Dr. Kaye. “Rib plating offers enhanced pain control, helps decrease a patient’s hospital stay and chance of infection, and increases the patient’s quality of life.”
And that, according to Hamilton, is a priceless benefit of the surgery Dr. Kaye performed a year ago. “Everything internally seems back in place—I feel normal, have returned to work and resumed normal activities with my wife and kids,” says Hamilton who pauses, remembering that dirt bike waiting in his garage for another whirl around the track. “Except riding my bike. I’ve promised my wife that it can wait.”
Rather than hopping on a bike, Hamilton now maneuvers a golf cart around the parking lots of Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s campus, picking up patients at their cars and delivering them to the doctors’ building. “I wanted to volunteer here, to give back to this amazing place and the people like Dr. Kaye who truly saved my life,” says Hamilton.