Chris' Story: 'We Are So Blessed'

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“Chris and I have been married since October 2010, but we've been together since we were 17. Well, I was 17, he was 18,” recalls Charlette Boykin. “My son called and told me that Chris never came to pick him up, so I said, ‘Call him again. He'll come.’ And he was like, I did, but he's not answering.”

Michele Boykin, Chris’s mother, was at work when she received a call from her sister-in-law. “Her son was traveling with Chris on his way home from work, so she notified me that they had been in an automobile accident.”

Jon Shinkle, EMT-P, City of Dayton paramedic/ARFF, remembers arriving at the accident. “When we showed up, you could tell right away that it was a pretty significant scene. The vehicle was wrapped around a telephone pole and the pole was actually in the driver's seat at the time,” he says.

“I didn't realize the severity of the accident until I arrived at Miami Valley and I was told that he was on a ventilator and that he was critical,” Michele says.

“He had fractures of the spine, one of the supporting bones, but also additional fractures in his back which reflected the severity of injury and some fractures of his pelvis,” says Mary McCarthy, MD, FACS, trauma surgeon. “But the most severe injury was his head injury, and the fact that he bled additionally and that the areas of bleeding increased during the first 24 hours.”
Charlette, who was 32 weeks pregnant at the time, says that with the severity of the accident, she didn't know whether Chris was going to make it to meet their new baby or come home to their other two children.

“He came in and he had what ultimately turned out to be cerebral contusions,” says Peter Letarte, MD, FACS, FAANS, neurosurgeon. “What's interesting about that is you don't always see those on the first head CT. People will have a depressed mental status. You'll know there's something wrong, but a place like this, we're going to figure out if there's something wrong. And just because the scan doesn't look too bad, that doesn't mean something bad hasn't happened.”

Jon explains that when a patient is as severe as Chris was, and he really needs surgery, you don't want to spend a lot of time on the scene. “You want to get to the closest hospital, but you want to get to the closest appropriate hospital. And the most appropriate hospital for us was Miami Valley.”

Dr. Letarte says that most hospitals don't see a lot of trauma. “When they get a really bad trauma, very often their staff just says, ‘this is not something we're prepared to do.’ Very often you need neurosurgery. A lot of hospitals don't have a neurosurgeon on 24-hour call. They can't get to neurosurgical services. That's a big reason why a lot of hospitals don't do trauma.”

Michele says that she was told that Chris probably couldn't hear her, but her mother's instinct told her differently. “I would talk to him, I knew he could hear me. There were days I would go in and I would basically have my own church service with Chris. I'm praying, I have my gospel music. I love gospel music. I would sing to him, I would talk to him. I would hold his hand and make sure he knew how much we loved him.”

“Even when a patient's in his mid-thirties the mothers are still there, and that patient is still their baby. And knowing how that mother feels is a very hard thing,” says Dr. McCarthy. “And oftentimes I'll give them a hug and they'll give me a hug because I can empathize with being a mother and having a child, or even a mid-thirties child, that is badly injured.”
Chris was admitted to Miami Valley Hospital’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit on March 8 and discharged on March 22. He still attends weekly rehab on an outpatient basis.

“Having a thoroughly integrated rehab program is a huge luxury for a trauma program because in the end, we’re just teeing them up for their rehab,” says Dr. Letarte. “We're making sure they survive, we're making sure nothing more happens to them so they can get to rehab. But then you’ve got to have the rehab to send them to, so it's a big advantage at Miami Valley that we have [rehab] here.”
Charlette remembers having to watch Chris learn how to do everything all over again. “He had to learn how to breathe all over again. Walk and talk. Just things that we do without thinking about it.”

“As the trauma team has explained, there is no defined period of recovery when someone is injured to that extent,” says Michele. “It's one day at a time. And so that's what I mean when I say a journey. It's a journey for his wife. It's a journey for his children. It's a journey for his entire family and most of all, I think the biggest journey is for Chris.”

“I'm doing things that I shouldn't be doing,” Chris says. “I'm back on track as far as that. I'm back on track.”

“My son told me, ‘Mom, we're really blessed,’ and I said, ‘Well, why do you say that?’” Charlette says. “He said, ‘Because my dad is not supposed to be here.’” Charlette is touched by her son’s words. “I'm so happy for a teenage boy to say something like that. It just shows me how much he really pays attention.”

Michele believes they are blessed because Chris is still in their lives. “We are blessed because we have grown as a family. We are closer now than we've ever been,” she says. “He's had another daughter who's been born through this ordeal. She's probably the sunshine through all of this. So yes, there are many blessings and we're thankful for that each and every day.”

Charlette says that Miami Valley Hospital played a big part in saving Chris. “The doctors, the trauma team, everybody there, and I even delivered my daughter there. My water broke in Chris’s room. So even the labor and delivery, I just feel like Miami Valley is a really good place.”

Chris is very grateful for the care he received at Miami Valley Hospital. “Thank you,” he says. “I appreciate everything. Thank you for saving my life.”

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