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Freak accidents — they can happen to anyone at the most unsuspecting moments, and Crystal Poole, unfortunately, is no exception. Due to no fault of her own, she found herself in the wrong place at wrong time.

Crystal is a wife, a mom, a graduate student, a resident of Wake County and also a trauma survivor. Here’s her story.

An Accident Like No Other

On August 24, 2019, she was driving down interstate 540 in the pouring rain. Visibility was low, and another driver, who could not see Crystal in her blind spot, changed lanes and sideswiped Crystal’s car.

They both pulled over to the guardrail to inspect the damage and exchange insurance cards. Crystal found that the damage to both vehicles was minimal. Yet, just to be safe, Crystal decided to exchange insurance information anyway.

Just as she was walking back to her vehicle on that soggy day, another car began to hydroplane. The driver lost control of the vehicle and spun across two lanes of traffic moving at 70 mph. He hit the back of Crystal’s car with violent impact, lunging it forward into the other parked car. Centrifugal force had slowed the vehicle to 60 mph, a still powerful and destructive speed.

Crystal was crushed between her car and the original vehicle that had initially hit her.

Crystal says, “The force of the impact shattered my right leg and severed my femoral artery. I was conscious during the accident, although to this day I’m not sure how I didn’t lose consciousness, so I remember exactly what my leg looked like.”

Crystal’s leg was bludgeoned and bloody, exposing bone — and the leg from the knee down turned 90 degrees to the right.

Crystal says, “I got lucky because among the people who pulled over to assist after the accident were two nurses and a doctor. One of the nurses made a tourniquet and tied my leg off, which slowed the bleeding. The doctor came by a few minutes later and examined my leg and the other people involved in the accident, all of whom made it out with minor injuries.”

It took just ten minutes for the ambulance to arrive. Crystal says, “I was especially grateful because I had gotten very cold (despite it being the end of August), and I’ve been told that’s not a good sign. I had also told the woman, who had sideswiped me, to tell my family that I loved them and for my daughter to grow up happy…just in case.”

Within minutes, the ambulance sped Crystal off to WakeMed’s Level I Trauma Center, where the team, under the guidance of attending trauma surgeon Dr. Brandon Roy, quickly got to work to manage her condition.

Crystal says, “I saw how great WakeMed was because, despite it being the scariest moment of my life, the trauma team was doing everything in their power to keep me calm. While everyone was examining me, a guy was standing at my head (I had one of those collars on, so I couldn’t see what was happening) telling me everything they were doing and reassuring me that everything was going to be okay.”

Crystal suffered the most excruciating pain of her life during this time, but the comfort and reassurance she received from her trauma nurse, Sarah Kistner, RN, and the remaining WakeMed trauma team gave her hope.

Life and Limb Saved

After a CT scan to assess the damage, Crystal was taken to surgery.

“My memories of the first few days are pretty fuzzy, but I remember having multiple surgeries back-to-back in an attempt to repair my shattered femur and my femoral artery. From what I have pieced together from family members, it was questionable whether or not I was going to be able to keep my leg. However, Dr. Sarat Ganga, an orthopaedic surgeon and Dr. James Fogartie, a vascular surgeon, were able to save my life and my leg!”

Crystal spent 31 days at the WakeMed Raleigh Campus. The first half of her stay was in ICU and then Med-Surg. The second half of her stay was in the WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital.

“I can say, with full confidence, that I would not be where I am today without the amazing people at WakeMed. Not only was my life and leg saved, but the occupational therapists and physical therapists showed me that I can still live my life. They taught me how to perform daily activities while making me stronger and more confident. And the amazing nursing staff kept my spirits high and kept me as comfortable as possible between the surgeries,” says Crystal.

Crystal’s Recovery Continues

Crystal’s recovery is still in progress. She is currently in outpatient physical therapy at WakeMed North and continues to have surgeries with Dr. Ganga. Yet, she still has hope.

Crystal says, “Without WakeMed’s amazing staff, I would not be able to be the mother, wife and student that I am today. Instead of being sad and angry, I’ve been able to take this experience and turn it into something positive, and that’s due, in large part, to the WakeMed staff.”

About the WakeMed Trauma Program

From pre-hospital and emergency care to surgery, intensive care and rehabilitation, WakeMed’s Trauma program features a network of care and specialists who are dedicated to preserving life and getting patients on the road to recovery. A continuum of services support trauma patients, starting with EMS and our trauma surgeons to spiritual care, imaging, lab, neurosurgeons, orthopaedists, rehab specialists and more.

WakeMed Trauma Centers

As Wake County’s only provider of trauma services and a regional trauma referral center, our two trauma centers — a Level I Trauma Center at Raleigh Campus and a Level III Trauma Center at Cary Hospital — and the WakeMed Trauma teams are standing ready to provide immediate care for the seriously injured.

WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital

The WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital is a 103-bed, nationally accredited rehabilitation hospital in Raleigh, NC with the largest number of rehab beds under one roof than any other rehab hospital in the entire state. WakeMed Rehabilitation offers a full continuum of physical rehabilitation services from the acute care setting (including a neuro care unit), through inpatient rehab in our CARF-accredited rehabilitation hospital, intensive day treatment, home health, outpatient rehabilitation and social programs. We offer specialty rehab programming for spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, amputee and pediatric patients. Our team consists of highly experienced therapists who specialize in treating the most complex patients. With the positive support of our team of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, neuropsychologists, nurses, case managers and physicians, our patients work hard to achieve the best possible outcomes and return to their lives.

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