When Minutes Count Trauma Care Saves Single Dad

Recognizing Michael Saline’s injuries were critical, paramedics made the call to fly him to Flagstaff Medical Center, Northern Arizona’s only Level I Trauma Center.

Taylor resident Michael Saline, a single father of two boys– Logan, 5, and Gage, 2 – was riding his motorcycle to work in Holbrook when a car pulled out in front of him. He was awake and talking immediately following the accident, however, he had life-threatening internal injuries including a lacerated liver and punctured lung.

“My chest hurt but I was not in a lot of pain,” Saline said. “Mostly I just felt very tired.”

When paramedics told Saline he was going to be flown to Flagstaff Medical Center’s Trauma Center, he knew his injuries must be more serious than he thought.

“I believe the paramedics were divinely inspired as to what to do on my behalf – they got me where I needed to be to save my life,” Saline said. “I didn’t think I was hurt that bad, but their urgency to get me to a trauma center told a different story.”

The accident was eerily reminiscent of an ATV accident Saline had when he was 12 years old that also landed him in a trauma center. The injuries he suffered as an adult were nearly identical to the ones from his childhood accident.

A Network of Caring
On that Tuesday morning last May, the paramedics who responded to Saline’s accident turned to FMC, the only Level I Trauma Center in Northern Arizona. As a Level I Trauma Center, FMC is the hub of the region’s trauma network and enables critically injured patients in Northern Arizona to be treated during the crucial moments of the Golden Hour. The Golden Hour is the first 60 minutes after an injury has been sustained. It is during this critical time lives may be saved if specialized medical care is administered. According to a recent study, patients who receive care at a trauma center have a 25 percent greater chance of survival than patients treated at non-trauma centers.

Guardian Air, the air ambulance division of FMC, which has bases in Flagstaff, Cottonwood, Kingman, Show Low and inslow, flew Saline to FMC. Guardian Air’s certified flight nurses, respiratory therapists and paramedics play a crucial role in ensuring patients reach a trauma center within the Golden Hour.

A Life-Saving Commitment to the Region
Serving as the only Level I Trauma Center in a region the size of North Carolina takes a significant investment on the part of FMC, which recently received another three-year designation following an extensive survey by the American College of Surgeons and the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Besides offering rapid care to critically ill patients,FMC had to meet many other requirements to receive its Level I designation. First and foremost, an extensive team of physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, trauma nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and technicians has to be available. Staff must undergo extensive training and continuous education courses and the facility must meet a very high set of standards related to outcomes and quality of care. Additionally, FMC tracks patient outcomes to determine areas for improvement, offers community outreach programs and publishes medical research papers.

“It takes a very high level of commitment on the part of the hospital and the surgeons to be a Level I Trauma Center,” said Andrew Aldridge, M.D., surgeon and medical director of FMC’s Trauma Center. “Meeting all the requirements to be a Level I Trauma Center requires dedication and extensive resources. A lot of trauma happens at night and on the weekends. At FMC, we’re here for patients at all times.”

Saving a Single Dad
Dr. Aldridge and the trauma team were waiting when Saline arrived at FMC following his motorcycle accident.

“Michael’s injuries were life-threatening. He was bleeding profusely and we needed to get him into surgery immediately,” Dr. Aldridge said.

Saline ended up needing more than 25 units of blood products to replace the blood he lost. His injuries were complicated in part by the previous injury to his liver when he was 12, which made it more fragile and susceptible to tearing and extensive bleeding.

“I remember Dr. Aldridge telling my mom that I had less than an hour to live because of the bleeding and that they needed to get me into surgery immediately, if not sooner,” Saline said. “I owe Dr. Aldridge, FMC and the paramedics my life. If they had not reacted so quickly, I would not be here today to raise my boys.”

Back to Fishing
Saline spent 10 days at FMC in the Intensive Care Unit. Today, he is back at work as a juvenile probation officer in Holbrook. But, more importantly, he is spending time with his boys – running, fishing and laughing. He says that these days he is sticking with driving vehicles with four wheels and doors.

For more information on FMC’s Trauma Center and other FMC programs and services, visit