On the court again
Teenage siblings Chris and Becca Piancino love to hang out together and try to beat each other at basketball. However, their daily games of H-O-R-S-E came to an abrupt end when the two were in a devastating rollover accident on Interstate 17 in October. Fortunately, Flagstaff Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Center and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) were just minutes away to provide the intense level of care the two needed.Chris was driving when their vehicle was clipped by a passing car, causing it to roll several times. The kids’ parents were driving ahead of them and saw the accident happen.
“It truly was like watching a film in slow motion; there was nothing we could do,” said Stephanie Piancino, Chris and Becca’s mom. “It was the worst day of our lives.”
Guardian Medical Transport (GMT), Highlands Fire District and Flagstaff Fire Department responded to the scene. Paramedics provided on-scene live-saving care, which continued as the two young patients were transported to Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) by GMT. Upon arrival at FMC, Becca was alert, with only minor injuries. But Chris’ injuries were complex and lifethreatening.
He had broken vertebrae in his back and neck, a concussion, a broken sternum and wrist, and collapsed lungs. His condition demanded the expertise of the specially trained pediatric
physicians and staff in FMC’s PICU.
While in the PICU, Chris needed a ventilator to help him breathe. He was placed in a drug-induced
coma to give his body the best chance to heal. Nurses and respiratory therapists were continually by his side, while Pediatric Intensivist Susan Haeffner, M.D., monitored his delicate condition and coordinated his care.
“We owe our son’s life to the paramedics, Dr. Haeffner, and to the amazing nurses and
therapists at FMC,” said Stephanie. “The care our kids received was phenomenal. Dr. Haeffner was blatantly honest with us about the severity of Chris’ condition. She also told us she would be with us every step of the way – and she was.”
Three days after the accident, Chris had improved enough that staff allowed him to wake up and he was taken off the ventilator. On day five he was moved out of the PICU. On day six, he went home. Less than three weeks after the accident, he was able to join Becca back at Coconino High School.
Today, Becca is playing basketball on the freshman girl’s team. Chris isn’t able to play this year, but that doesn’t stop him from participating. He hangs out with the junior varsity team and once he is medically cleared he will be able to serve as the team manager.
“I am bummed that I couldn’t play,” Chris said. “But what really matters is that I am okay and my sister is okay and thanks to FMC, we will have many more opportunities to play basketball.”
About the PICU
When the unexpect ed or unimaginable happens to your child, FMC’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) is ready to meet the unique medical needs of children from birth to adolescence. As the only PICU in Northern Arizona, FMC’s unit provides comprehensive care to critically ill and injured children in a compassionate, family-centered environment. Susan Haeffner, M.D., is the pediatric intensivist who oversees care in the PICU. Dr. Haefner specializes in caring for critically ill and injured children in the hospital setting, from the time they are admitted to the hospital until they are discharged. To ensure a continuum of care, Dr. Haeffner works closely with the child’s pediatrician or primary care physician regarding final diagnosis, medications and any follow-up plans prescribed at the time of discharge. Her specific areas of expertise include pediatric trauma, advanced critical care stabilization and management, advanced ventilation techniques and cardiac critical care.