November 19, 2020
ALEXANDRIA, LA — Shelbi Poe and her family have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Yes, they are thankful for their 10 month-old twins, Jackson and Stella. But they are also thankful for the surgeons and staff at Rapides Regional Medical Center who saved Shelbi's arm after an ATV accident earlier this year.
"It was April 4," said Shelbi Poe, 26, of Leesville. "We were at home and since we were in the middle of COVID, we were having a small get together with family and friends."
There was a bonfire. And crawfish. And then, a ride on a side-by-side in the pasture with friends. Shelbi was on the passenger side when the ATV flipped.
"My husband saw it happen. He said it's not that we were going very fast. We were on a downhill slope and picked up a little speed when the tire hit just right," Poe said.
Poe's friends climbed out from the ATV but Poe's arm was trapped under the seat belt rack.
"As soon as they lifted it up, blood was everywhere. My husband put a belt around my arm. And my mother-in-law called 9-1-1," Poe said.
From there, Poe was transported to Rapides Regional Medical Center Trauma Center in Alexandria.
Anthony Pruett, M.D., was the physician on duty in the Emergency Department. Matthew Linger, M.D., was the Trauma Surgeon on call.
"We have such a great team here at Rapides Regional," Dr. Linger said. "From the pre-hospital staff to the ED nurses and the OR team, everyone did fantastic work to make sure Mrs. Poe could make it to the operating room quickly and safely. We're all so happy she did as well as she did."
William C. Skakun, D.O., orthopedic surgeon and Chance R. Dewitt, M.D., cardiovascular surgeon, were on call as well.
"The patient literally had almost no attachment of her arm except for a sliver of her triceps muscle," Dr. Dewitt said. "Bones, muscle, ligaments, nerves and arteries were severed. Normally, this would be an amputation."
"It was a very frank discussion," Dr. Skakun said. "We are a trauma center. We see a lot of near, partial or complete amputations. But the age of the patient, the fact that she had twin babies at home, along with the obvious disability that would go along with that decision were factors we considered."
Once that decision was made, H. Stephen Maguire, M.D., plastic surgeon, was called in.
Since so much of the arm was damaged, Dr. Maguire took skin from Poe's abdomen to help reconstruct some of the arm's soft tissue. The arm was then attached to Poe's stomach so the graft would take and the wound would have time to heal.
Typically, surgeons can do the work to repair a near amputation but then amputate anyway one week later when it doesn't heal, Dr. Dewitt said.
"It was immensely gratifying," Dr. Maguire said. "The bulk of my training goes to these types of reconstruction, but we are fortunate that we see so few of them. Shelbi is a great example of when a multi-disciplinary team is needed. We were able to take care of her locally and it is a credit to Rapides Regional that this hospital had the resources available to do it."
In all, Poe had 12 surgeries. She recently had her last appointment with Dr. Skakun and is continuing physical therapy.
"You can put stuff back together all you want," Dr. Skakun said. "But the question is, are you going to have a functional limb? It was an ongoing process where we continued to see improvement with each surgery and each visit. It's quite exceptional based on how bad her injury was. She went from having a dead arm to having a functional arm with exceptional range of motion. Unless you were there, it's hard to tell how far she's come."
Poe spent 17 days in the hospital.
"When I woke up from surgery, I remember telling everyone I wanted to see my babies," Poe said. "I've kind of blocked the rest out, but I do remember them saying they weren't sure if my arm would be OK.
"I'm so grateful that they did what they did. I don't know what my life would be like if they hadn't been able to save my arm. God could not have placed better people in one place to take care of me."