Hearts of HeroesThe team involved in the rescue operation reunited with Arnoldo Vasquez-Hernandez and his family to speak for the Hearts of Heroes episode.

Donald Reiff, M.D., Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery professor and Assistant Chief Medical Officer, was recently featured on the ABC show Hearts of Heroes.

The program is hosted by ABC News’ chief meteorologist Ginger Zee and showcases the stories of first responders saving lives in the face of natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods. Hearts of Heroes allows viewers to witness, according to its website, “the worst of nature but the best of humanity.” The show is interspersed with safety and preparedness tips.

Reiff spoke about his role in responding to a life-threating situation at the scene of a tornado-ravaged home.

Along with local first responders and a medical team from UAB (also featured in the episode), Reiff was involved in the rescue of Arnoldo Vasquez-Hernandez after a deadly EF-3 tornado tore through Fultondale, Alabama.

By the light of a phone flashlight, Reiff performed a rare in-the-field amputation which freed Vasquez, who was trapped between a fallen tree and his basement stairs. After placing two tourniquets, Reiff completed the amputation in about 10 minutes, preserving as much of Vasquez’s limb as possible and saving his life.

In addition to Reiff, the UAB team on the scene included Blayke Gibson, M.D., Department of Emergency Medicine Associate Professor and Medical Quality Officer; Sherichia Hardy, Medical Emergency Team (MET) & Emergency Services Clinical Specialties Nurse Manager; and India Alford, Director of Emergency Services at the UAB Medicine Gardendale Freestanding Emergency Department. In the Hearts of Heroes episode, they each shared their account of the medical care they provided on the scene.

Reiff, Gibson, Hardy, and Alford are all part of the SWIFT Team initiative, which stands for Surgical forWard Intervention for Trauma. SWIFT was developed in 2019 by the Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery and focuses on innovative approaches to pre-hospital care, like getting doctors to the point of injury, with the goal of reducing preventable deaths.

“The importance of being able to bring the operating room to the field may prove to be invaluable for the next disaster,” Reiff said.

Trauma surgeons don’t often see their patients past their one week follow up. For the Hearts of Heroes piece, Reiff was able to reunite with the rescue team and meet Vasquez again, months into his recovery and now fitted with a prosthetic leg.

“It was heartwarming to see him walking on his own again,” Reiff said.

Watch Season 3, Episode 10 of Hearts of Heroes, “A Matter of Time,” on YouTube here.