On Sunday, November 21, 2004, doctors used the new teletrauma connection between the Emergency Room at Southeast Arizona Medical Center in Douglas and the Emergency Department at University Medical Center to save a young child’s life. A bad car crash near Douglas left three persons dead and an 18 month old baby with severe trauma to the head, and multiple fractures.
The new teletrauma system utilizing the Arizona Telemedicine Program Network was activated. In Tucson, Dr. Rifat Latifi, Associate Director, Telesurgery and International Affairs, and a skilled trauma surgeon, utilized the teletrauma connection to provide direct supervision to the local Douglas physician, Dr. Tanvir, through multiple interventions, including intubations, the delivery of blood products and large amounts of IV fluids. In short, Dr. Latifi was able to be in the Douglas emergency room “virtually” to guide the patient’s treatment. As a result, the baby was stabilized enough to transport to Tucson and placed in the ICU where her condition is stable and she is expected to live. Later in the day, Dr. Latifi sent an email to his colleagues summarizing what had occurred and with great pride concluded, “If we had not had this connection today that child would have died.” Dr. Latifi hopes to expand the teletrauma system network to many other Arizona communities in need of this life-saving capability. In addition to saving lives, the system is expected to save the great costs involved in transporting trauma patients unnecessarily. This first teletrauma system was placed in service through a generous loan from Visual Telecommunications Network, Inc.( ViTel Net).