Published on December 09, 2020

Essentia Health marks two years of providing adult Level I trauma care

Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center is excited to celebrate the two-year anniversary of its Level I trauma verification.

St. Mary’s Medical Center is the only adult Level I trauma center north of the Twin Cities, and one of only five in the entire state of Minnesota. The verification comes from the American College of Surgeons, and it signifies that St. Mary’s provides comprehensive care for all patients, from emergency care through rehabilitation.

In order to qualify for Level I verification, St. Mary’s also had to make significant investments in research and education around trauma services. The Duluth hospital cares for about 1,600 trauma patients annually, including referrals from health systems throughout the region. Those patients benefit from the highest level of trauma care available, and it’s provided close to home.

“The members of our community can have confidence that they will receive the highest level of care by specialized multi-disciplinary teams connected with trauma care,” said Linda Vogel, trauma program manager at St. Mary’s. “We are capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury — from teaching injury prevention through rehabilitation. Our strong relationships with EMS and our regional hospitals allow us to serve our patients with comprehensive care and help keep them closer to home.”

In addition to the two-year anniversary, Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital has been re-verified as a Level II pediatric trauma center.

Mora teen benefits from expert trauma care at St. Mary’s

Following a September dirt-biking accident in northern Minnesota, Brett Helser experienced firsthand the high-quality trauma care available at St. Mary’s.

The 14-year-old Helser, who lives in Mora, was knocked unconscious and flown by Life Flight helicopter to St. Mary’s after washing out, and then being run into by another rider, during a dirt-bike race on Sept. 27.

“When we watched the helicopter take off, as a parent, that was the most helpless feeling in the world, that I don’t ever want to feel ever again,” said Stephanie Helser, Brett’s mother.

At St. Mary’s, Brett was diagnosed with — among other things — a tibial plateau fracture, femur fracture, collarbone fracture and a shoulder blade fracture. Stephanie and her husband, Brett’s father Bill, were told their son was “broken but OK.”

The Helser family lauded Brett’s care team, from the trauma surgeon to the nurses, physical therapists, pediatricians and the chaplain. They were comforted every step of the way and no question went unanswered.

“Everybody that we dealt with was just absolutely fantastic,” Bill said.

Brett, who was wearing appropriate protective gear and a helmet during the accident, was back home recovering within a few days. He initially was in a wheelchair, then got around with the assistance of a walker and cane. But he was determined to ditch those devices, which he did a week after the accident when he began walking, gingerly, on his own again.

At first, he was told that he might be able to resume riding by spring, but as he recovered rapidly, that timeline shrunk. Finally, Brett was informed he could ride as soon as Thanksgiving.

So on Friday, Nov. 27, he was back on his bike. He rode at an indoor track in Wisconsin and plans to race again in the spring.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Brett said. “I’m just trying to rebuild the muscle in my leg.”

Watch Essentia's YouTube video about Brett’s story.

To coordinate interviews, photos, and/or video, contact the media relations team.

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