Kristin Vines had never given much thought to where her three young boys would receive medical care if ever badly injured. When she got the call last September that her six-year-old son Zachery was being taken by ambulance to the hospital, she headed to the medical center where their family received routine care. It was the wrong destination for the treatment her son needed.

“I was hysterical. I didn’t understand what my husband was telling me on the phone. Even had I realized right away that Zachery needed trauma care, I wouldn’t have known where to immediately
go,” Vines says.

Today Kristin takes every opportunity to tell others that Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center is the only Level 1 trauma center for the 1.5 million residents of San Francisco and northern San Mateo County. If seriously injured, the hospital is these residents’ single greatest hope for survival. Dr. Peggy Knudson was the attending surgeon in charge when the trauma team received the highest-level patient status alert for Zachery Vines, on whom a 200-pound wet bar had fallen.

She took one look at Zachery, noted that he was unresponsive, and immediately directed the trauma team to prepare for emergency surgery.

“When bleeding, children respond very differently to injury than adults. For most adults who are bleeding, our blood pressure will gradually decrease while the heart rate gradually increases,” says Dr. Knudson.

“Kids however can hold on to their blood pressure for a long time, even as they lose a lot of blood, and then suddenly their blood pressure will crash,” she explains. “There’s a very narrow chance of getting them back once that happens.”

Zachery underwent surgery to his liver for one-and-a-half hours. When she went to meet Zachery’s father, Jason, and Kristin, Dr. Knudson found them with their close friend Ana Claudia Pereira, RN, one of the trauma center’s operating room surgical nurses. She’d come in on her day off to support the family when Kristin called her with the news. The two had become friends five years ago when they met through their older sons’ baseball club.

Pereira thanks Dr. Knudson for saving her friends’ son by acting so quickly. “I think Zachery was already in surgery just about an hour after he got injured. One hour is crucial with injuries this severe. He was fortunate to be in surgery in less than an hour thanks to Dr. Knudson,” she says.

The nurse has cared for many seriously injured children for years, but found it extra difficult to see a child and family she knows in such a traumatic situation.

She and colleagues who had mourned the loss of other pediatric patients celebrated when Zachery pulled through. Pereira says, “When we have kid patients, it’s sad. When we lose them, it’s heartbreaking. With Zachery, it was so great to have a miracle! We all celebrated that one!”

Kristin Vines wonders if Zachery would have survived had they lived in an area where such excellent trauma care wasn’t available. “Everyone took such amazing care of him, and of me and Zachery’s brothers and dad,” says Kristin Vines. “That’s how they treat everyone. I didn’t see the staff treat anyone else any other way. It’s a very special place, and people need to know that.”