Misty Absher was one of the first trauma patients treated by SIH Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, even before the facility received an official level 2 trauma center designation.
Absher's accident happened in January 2019, and she shared her story at an EMS Symposium in Carbondale on Wednesday and reunited with some of the doctors, nurses, and paramedics who saved her life.
Absher was traveling on US 51 between Makanda and Carbondale when another driver turned left in front of her. She was going around 50 mph when the collision occured, and says she remembers little of the crash.
A bystander opened the door to her car and reassured Absher, telling her the accident wasn't her fault.
"I looked down at my chest and said I'm hurt, and I'm hurt real bad," Absher said. "And that was the last thing I remember."
The next thing Absher remembered was waking up in the hospital.
"I woke up in the hospital, in ICU with 50 staples in my chest," she said.
Ray Ollermann, a paramedic who treated Absher, recalled how severe her injuries were.
"From her injuries that we could see, not being able to see the internal injuries, just the external injuries, she looked bad," Ollermann said.
EMS workers brought Absher to Memorial Hospital's ER, where an ultrasound revealed a hole in hear heart.
"I knew that we had to take her to the operating room to save her life," said Antonio Lozada, the trauma surgeon who performed Absher's surgery.
The injury was so bad Lozado had to put his finger over the hole on Absher's heart to help hold it steady while he stitched her up.
Lozado said time is key when dealing with trauma, referring to what he called the golden hour.
"[It's] he time you need to diagnose the injury and intervene, or you will lose the person," Lozado said. "That's what makes having a trauma center here in southern Illinois so important, because during that golden hour, it used to be you'd have to transfer those patients."
Absher would not have survived transport to another hospital, said Ollermann.
"She would not have made it to St. Louis, Evansville, wherever, for her treatment, with a hole in her heart," he said.
Absher said doctors told her that even five extra minutes would have changed her story.
"If my car had automatic door locks, I would not have made it," she said.
Absher met Ollermann in the hospital, and again after a high school football game where EMS workers were honored. She recognized him and approached him to say thank you.
On Wednesday, she reunited with the rest of the EMS crew, as well as nurses who treated her and Dr. Lozada.
"My son has a mother today, because of them," she said. "And for that I will forever be grateful."