trauma survivors day race to rebuild 1600x1200They ranged from ages 18 to 77 and previously faced injury due to falls, car and ATV crashes, and gun violence.

Their injuries were varied too – including broken bones, damaged organs, severe bleeding, traumatic brain injuries, a spinal cord injury, and an internal decapitation. But these five trauma survivors and former UAB patients came back to UAB Hospital and showed that it’s possible to not only survive, but thrive, after traumatic injury.

On National Trauma Survivors Day – Wednesday, May 18 – the UAB Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery held a first-of-its-kind event honoring trauma survivors, their families and supporters, and their medical teams. The event highlighted the unique challenges that trauma survivors face – and the resilience they face these challenges with.

Before the event, survivors were invited to come early and reunite with members of their UAB care teams. Patients that weren’t initially expected to survive shook hands and shared hugs with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers that cared for them and encouraged them during their stay at UAB Hospital.

“This event was special because it was a great validation of the hard work and effort we put in everyday to care for trauma patients,” said Daniel Cox, M.D., Chief of UAB’s Trauma Service. “Getting to see these patients recovered from life-threatening injuries and thriving now is a great reminder of why we work so hard to make this the best trauma center in the nation.”

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The event also served as a kickoff for UAB’s newly established Trauma Survivors Network (TSN). The TSN is an initiative of the American Trauma Society and there are currently over 150 TSN sites at hospitals and rehab centers nationwide. The TSN exists to support trauma patients and their families – from their immediate questions to their long term emotional needs.

The TSN provides programs like resources for patients and their families in the hospital, support groups, a Facebook group for virtual connection, the NextSteps program, which is an online course that helps survivors set new goals and manage their lives after trauma, and peer mentoring, which pairs a compassionate, trained trauma survivor with a current trauma patient in the hospital to answer questions and provide hope in a way that only someone who has truly been there themselves can do.

The TSN will allow UAB to support patients long after discharge – because the road to recovery for a trauma survivor doesn’t end when they leave the hospital.

“We don’t want to just save the lives of our trauma patients – we also want to support them in the days and years after their injuries,” said Director of the UAB Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Jeffrey Kerby, M.D., Ph.D. “The programs that will be offered by the Trauma Survivor Network here at UAB will complement the medical care we offer by providing the skills, confidence, and resources patients need to better navigate their road to recovery.”

Two survivors who are the first two trained peer mentors of the UAB Trauma Survivors Network spoke at the event, sharing their stories and thanking UAB doctors, nurses, and staff.

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Daryl Coleman shared how his commute to work in December of 2014 led to a car crash, a spinal cord injury, and him being in a wheelchair. He spoke about how his ICU nurses decorated his room for his birthday and how the therapists at Spain Rehabilitation Center didn’t allow him to give up.

He says that trauma affects every member of the family – from the spouse who may take on caregiving roles, to the children and extended family who are worried about their love one. Coleman says he lives by two mottos – “warriors never give up” and “tomorrow is going to be different.”

“If anybody is going through trauma I want them to know that you can work through it and you can make it,” Coleman said. “You have to work hard. It’s not going to be easy. But tomorrow is never going to be the same –you can make it better.”

Diane Eubank also spoke, and credits UAB with saving her life after a 2018 ATV accident left her with an internal decapitation, a 30% chance of survival, and a 98% chance of being a quadriplegic. She made an incredible recovery thanks to the multidisciplinary team of doctors that were ready for her arrival to the hospital on Christmas Eve.

Eubank has also been trained as a peer mentor and looks forward to giving the support she realizes would have helped her during her hospital stay and beyond.

“I know that I can’t give them all the advice that they’re going to need, but I can give them hope,” Eubank said. “Whatever their outcome is – I can give them hope.”

Following the event, a group of about 50 participated in the Race to Rebuild – a symbolic walk outside around UAB Hospital to raise awareness in the wider Birmingham community for Trauma Survivors Day. Survivors led the way and carried a 7 foot wide banner advertising the Trauma Survivors Network.

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Later that evening, Malachi Teague, an 18-year-old trauma survivor who was shot in the back at a gas station in Gadsden last December and needed three surgeries and two human bodies’ worth of blood, was invited to the field at Protective Stadium during halftime of the Birmingham Legion Football Club game. His family and friends, along with trauma surgeons Zain Hashmi, M.D., Parker Hu, M.D., Lauren Tanner, M.D., and Trauma and Surgical Critical Care fellow Robin Tillery, M.D. joined Teague on the field. Teague, who played soccer in middle and high school, kicked the soccer ball around the field with goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg as the stadium announcer explained Trauma Survivors Day and recognized UAB and the high level of care provided to trauma patients.

“It was a beautiful reunion – to be able to see the people who saved his life,” said Karen Bishop, Teague’s mom.

As the home to Alabama’s only American College of Surgeons-verified Level 1 Trauma Center, UAB sees severely injured patients from across the state and even neighboring states. The volume of trauma patients at UAB has been on the rise – reflecting nationwide increases in motor vehicle crashes and gun violence. In 2021, UAB saw a historic increase in volume, handling 6,466 trauma evaluations — a 17 percent increase over the last year and a 34 percent increase over the past two years.

Meet all five UAB trauma survivors honored at the event here.

  • Trauma survivors, their family members, friends, and supporters were recognized at the event.

  • Five UAB trauma survivors were recognized at the event: John Hilmer, Malachi Teague, Daryl Coleman, Diane Eubank, and Jerry Jones.

  • The event also served as a kick-off to UAB's newly established Trauma Survivors Network.

  • Trauma surgeons from the UAB Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery showed their support for trauma survivors at the event.

  • The UAB Race to Rebuild was a group march consisting of trauma survivors, their families and friends, and medical professionals to raise awareness for Trauma Survivors Day in Birmingham.

  • Survivor Jerry Jones pushes survivor Daryl Coleman during the UAB Race to Rebuild.

  • Survivor Daryl Coleman reunited with Elizabeth Vander Kamp, who led a UAB Arts in Medicine writing course for those with spinal cord injuries, which Coleman participated in.

  • UAB Arts in Medicine Violinist in Residence Haleigh Black performed before the event.

  • Trauma survivor Malachi Teague was invited to the field at Protective Stadium during halftime of the Birmingham Legion Football Club game. His family and friends, along with trauma surgeons Zain Hashmi, M.D., Parker Hu, M.D., Lauren Tanner, M.D., and Trauma and Surgical Critical Care fellow Robin Tillery, M.D. joined Teague on the field.

  • The UAB Race to Rebuild was a group march consisting of trauma survivors, their families and friends, and medical professionals to raise awareness for Trauma Survivors Day in Birmingham.

  • The UAB Race to Rebuild was a group march consisting of trauma survivors, their families and friends, and medical professionals to raise awareness for Trauma Survivors Day in Birmingham.

  • The UAB Race to Rebuild was a group march consisting of trauma survivors, their families and friends, and medical professionals to raise awareness for Trauma Survivors Day in Birmingham.

  • Director of the Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Jeffrey Kerby, M.D., Ph.D., speaks with gunshot wound survivor Malachi Teague.

  • UAB Medicine employees came to the event in support of their past patients.

  • Director of the Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Jeffrey Kerby, M.D., Ph.D., speaks with gunshot wound survivor Malachi Teague.

  • Chief of UAB's Trauma Service and trauma surgeon Daniel Cox, M.D., speaks with trauma survivor Diane Eubank.

  • UAB employees came to the event in support of their past patients.

  • UAB Medicine employees came to the event in support of their past patients.

  • UAB employees came to the event in support of their past patients.

  • Brenda Carlisle, Vice President of Clinical Operations for Perioperative, Trauma and Burn, Inpatient Wound Services, Heart and Vascular Center for UAB Hopsital and UAB Highlands, speaks at the event.

  • Trauma survivor Daryl Coleman shares his story at the event.

  • UAB Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery Director Jeffrey Kerby, M.D., Ph.D., speaks at the event.

  • Chief of UAB's Trauma Service, Daniel Cox, M.D., speaks at the event.

  • Trauma survivor Diane Eubank speaks at the event.

  • Allie Hulcher, Communications Specialist and Trauma Survivors Network Coordinator with the UAB Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, explains the symbolism of the red tulip stained glass gift each trauma survivor received.