WALESKA — Reinhardt University students and faculty and medical professionals worked together Thursday to present a dramatic trauma simulation highlighting organ donation.
In the “Trauma Drama,” fictional student Chuck Mercer, 20, leaves the campus to meet up with friends at a pizzeria in Canton. He sends a text message while he is driving, and his vehicle crosses the center line of Ga. Highway 140 and hits a truck head-on. He receives a brain injury on impact, along with several other injuries.
Mercer is flown by helicopter to the “Reinhardt University Medical Center” where doctors and nurses work tirelessly to save his life before he is pronounced brain dead. Chuck dies, but because his parents honored their son’s wishes to donate his organs, several other people are saved.
Reinhardt’s nursing and theater departments worked with LifeLink of Georgia, the organization that handles organ procurement in Georgia, and Life Force 3, an air ambulance service with Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Erlanger Health System to share a realistic story from the perspective of an organ donor for National Donate Life Month.
A Life Force 3 helicopter landed outside the university theater building to rush the “patient” to the medical center, which was positioned in the university’s black box theater.
Nursing students, with trustee Dr. Austin Flint, used equipment from a real operating room to work on the patient, which was a high fidelity simulator called “Apollo” used in the Cauble School of Nursing and Health Sciences.
According to the LifeLink Foundation, a single organ donor can save the lives of eight people, and those who donate tissue can improve the lives of more than 75.
Some audience members were emotional as Chuck’s mother and father, played by faculty members Kimberly Parker and Brian Osborne, heard the news that their child had died. Later, a representative of LifeLink of Georgia informed them that their son had registered as an organ donor. Though their son was gone, he could continue to help people as he had done in his life, they said.
“It’s a kind of hope that through their loved one’s passing and through their death, they and their story will continue,” said Tim Hand of LifeLink. “For the families that I sit across from who say yes, or their loved one said yes by registering to be an organ, eye or tissue donor, the final chapter of that patient isn’t one of a motor vehicle accident. The final chapter is one of giving someone life, giving someone sight and giving somebody else hope.”
Tracy Ide, LifeLink project manager, said that for those who become organ donors, hospitals will still do everything they can to save their lives. She added that donors can also have open casket funerals, and there is no charge to the family-LifeLink handles the costs of organ recovery process.
Nursing students experience trauma simulations as part of their studies in a mock hospital setting, but this one involved multiple other agencies and covered a broader range beyond the scope of the operating room, said Dean of Nursing Dr. Glynis Blackard.
“It’s to see our multidisciplinary team, how we collaborate first and foremost to save lives, and when that doesn’t happen, what we can do to honor the life of the individual who’s a donor,” Blackard said.
Near the end of the event, Reinhardt President Kina Mallard presented an award to Flint, who is a retired radiologist.
After the program, LifeLink representatives were available to answer questions, including whether someone is a registered organ donor and how to register.
Senior nursing student Rick Atkinson Jr. said he learned a lot from the program, and that he was able to participate with his cohort that he works with on a daily basis.
“It was an awesome experience to be part of this. I wasn’t aware of the extent of organ donation from the standpoint of the donor, I had always seen it backward, so I had never seen anything like this before,” Atkinson said. “Just as important as it was for the community to see, it was learning for us. It’s cool to take what we learn in the hospital, simulations and lectures and put it all together. Also it opened up other opportunities for nursing students that might not have thought about being a flight nurse or working in organ donation.”