ECU Health emergency medicine residents treat a patient during an exercise at Wildwood Park in Greenville.

Wildwood Park in Greenville served as the perfect setting for “Emergency Medicine Wilderness Day” as ECU Health emergency medicine residents practiced assessing and treating a variety of common outdoor ailments including altitude sickness, lightning strikes, falls from trees and more.

On March 29, approximately 20 emergency medicine residents attended training and worked in small groups to run through simulated injury scenarios with real people. From knowing how to stabilize an injured person, to assessing injuries and helping get them to safety, emergency residents worked together to treat the injuries under the watchful eye of experienced faculty members from the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. Residents received real-time instruction and feedback from faculty as they worked through their training.

Standardized patients from Brody’s Office of Clinical Skills Assessment and Education acted as the patients in each scenario. Standardized patients are trained to mimic real patients so that students can learn. Their role is to help prepare future health care professionals for a variety of patient interfaces.

ECU Health emergency medicine residents treat a patient during an exercise at Wildwood Park in Greenville.

“There are a number of practical applications for this type of training, especially for our medical residents who get to test their knowledge in the field,” said Dr. Jennifer Bennett, an emergency medicine physician at ECU Health and clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brody. “These scenarios are the types of things that we, as emergency medicine physicians, address somewhat commonly. We can apply the knowledge and skills learned out here to patient care.”

The day was a success, according to Dr. Bennett, who helped create the simulation Emergency Medicine Wilderness Day training event last year alongside Dr. Jennifer Parker-Cote, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brody. Both doctors helped organize the Wilderness Day, coming up with unique patient scenarios, including the altitude sickness training station which featured a standardized patient acting as a distressed hiker. The residents removed a fake snake from the area, asked the patient questions about their medications and medical history, moved the patient to a lower area and helped get them to further medical care.

“It’s always nice to get outdoors instead of sitting in a lecture hall,” said emergency medicine resident Tyler Ruchti, DO. “When you’re in the hospital, you have all of your tools and all of your equipment and know where it is, and when we come out here and do things like this it’s a change of scenery. You have to think outside the box.”

The training is another example of the valued partnership between ECU Health and Brody. Residents at an academic health system like ECU Health have support and resources for continued education from faculty and the Interprofessional Clinical Simulation Program at Brody, enriching their clinical training experience. Residents are able to participate in trainings like this to prepare for real situations with real patients both behind the walls of the hospital and out in the community.

“This training was partially about simulating complex medical issues that you may encounter in the wilderness as well as providing a little wellness for our residents,” said Dr. Parker-Cote. “This is a fun way to test knowledge and work together as a team. When it comes to education, there are different modalities for teaching. Learning in this type of environment provides us another way of reinforcing the knowledge they have learned throughout their residency, and it prepares them to help their fellow community members no matter the situation.”


ECU Health Emergency & Trauma

Brody School of Medicine

Brody Interprofessional Clinical Simulation Program

ECU Health emergency medicine residents treat a patient during an exercise at Wildwood Park in Greenville.

Emergency & Trauma | Featured | Health News

Wendy Gardner competes in an archery event.

Survivors of stroke and brain injury had an opportunity to artistically express their journey during a recent Unmasking Brain Injury event at ECU Health Medical Center.

The Brain Injury Association of North Carolina sponsored the Unmasking Brain Injury workshop. This event provides blank face masks and supplies to decorate the masks. Unmasking Brain Injury is an organization that aims to bring awareness to the prevalence of brain injuries and give survivors a voice and the means to educate others of what it’s like to live and recover with a brain injury. The event was the first of its kind in the ECU Health system.

Michele Horvath, stroke navigator at ECU Health Medical Center, helped run the event and said it was a wonderful moment to share with survivors.

“Everybody was really engaged and it was an emotional time for survivors because it made them artistically express their stroke or their traumatic brain injury and some of them are still in recovery,” Horvath said. “They’re really excited to share their story and it was really heartfelt. We’re hoping to bring community awareness to some of these brain injuries.”

Wendy Gardner competes in an archery event.
Photos Courtesy of Wendy Gardner

Along with a support person, each attendee, many of them members of ECU Health’s Stroke Support Network, decorated a mask to represent their journey and recovery process from their stroke or brain injury.

Molly Twiss, marketing coordinator at the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina, said it was the first Unmasking Brain Injury event she’d helped coordinate and she felt inspired after the event. She explained that the masks could be anything attendees wanted, not just their brain injury or stroke, but about themselves as a whole.

“The masks are a look inside of them, what they’re feeling, what they’ve gone through, what they hope for the future,” Twiss said. “Some can be as small as their favorite TV show, their favorite color or something about what their life was like before their injury. So if they were a skier beforehand and their accident was a ski accident, they can have it ski related. The mask could represent just something to get their mind off of having this invisible injury.”

Discovering New Passions

Wendy Gardner had her first child in 2000. Ten days after her son was born in Wilson, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, which has affected the left side of her body.

About a year ago, Gardner joined the Stroke Support Network at ECU Health and she said she’s enjoyed connecting with people in eastern North Carolina who have had similar experiences. She said the Unmasking Brain Injury event was a positive experience for everyone and she hopes for similar events through the support group in the future.

Gardner’s mask was painted red white and blue and adorned with a gold medal, representative of her new found passion — and talent — for archery.

About three years ago, Gardner stumbled upon archery as a sport she could participate in. Today, Gardner is a member of the USA Para Archery World team.

Wendy Gardner poses for a photo with her husband while wearing medals earned in Santiago, Chile.

“I hadn’t been able to find a sport that I can do because my whole left side of my body is affected,” Gardner said. “So I can’t run and I really can’t swim and do the usual activities. So I’d kind of given up actually finding something that I could do. We happened to go to a big archery competition because our daughter was interested in it. I saw a guy who has no arms and shoots with his feet and his name is Matt Stutzman. He’s on our team. That is what got me inspired. I thought, if he can do it with no arms and I have one arm I could use, we could find some way for me to do this.”

Wendy and her husband went to work on figuring out some adaptive equipment to help her hone her new craft. She said there are not many resources available to help people with making adaptive archery equipment so they went through a “trial and error” process.

Once the Gardner family got a handle on making adaptive equipment and realized how expensive it could be for others to create their own equipment, they started a nonprofit called GX4 Adaptive Archery.

Her attitude since first suffering her stroke has made all the difference. She said she never expected to be involved in something like the USA Archery Team, and through her determination to try new things—coupled with her relentless effort—Gardner now travels the world doing something she loves.

This includes trips to the United Arab Emirates, Chile and Czech Republic with the team, and she hopes to be in France next summer for the 2024 Paralympic Games.

“I’m always like, ‘Why not me?’ And I would never have done anything like this if this had not happened to me,” Gardner said. “So I always tell people, go try something new. The main thing is show up, you’ve got to show up and don’t be afraid to look foolish doing it. Because sometimes, as someone with a physical disability, you will. But just show up and try and do your best.”


Stroke Support Network – Upcoming Events

Brain Injury Support Group – Upcoming Events

Unmasking Brain Injury

Community | Emergency & Trauma | Health News | Neurology

An ECU Health EastCare ambulance drives down the road.

Washington, N.C. ECU Health Beaufort Hospital, a campus of ECU Health Medical Center President Debra Hernandez, MHA, RN, FACHE, CENP, will assume the fulltime role as senior vice president, System Emergency Services effective Feb. 26.

Debra Hernandez, MHA, RN, FACHE, CENP

Hernandez joined ECU Health in 2018 as the president of ECU Health Duplin Hospital. In 2020, she transitioned into a dual role as president of ECU Health Beaufort Hospital as well as system vice president of Emergency Services.

Hernandez’s transition into this role goes hand-in-hand with ECU Health’s investment in transforming its care delivery system with the goal of ensuring patients receive care at the right place and time across the region. Emergency Services are a critical component of health care delivery and impact capacity, access and clinical operations, particularly at a time when patient volumes in emergency departments are high. Hernandez, alongside physician leadership, will be responsible for clinical and operational excellence for system Emergency Services.

“I want to thank Debra for leading a transformational period at ECU Health Beaufort Hospital and for her willingness to tackle this new challenge,” said Brian Floyd, chief operating officer, ECU Health. “Debra’s expertise and experience in overseeing Emergency Services are particularly valuable in today’s health care environment where we are seeing increasingly high demands in emergency departments across the nation, state and here locally. I have full confidence in Debra’s ability to optimize our system-wide Emergency Services and improve clinical efficiencies for patients and team members.”

With Hernandez’s transition into her new role, Dennis Campbell, II DHA, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, will serve as interim president at ECU Health Beaufort. Campbell has been with the health system and in his current role as ECU Health Beaufort’s vice president of Patient Care Services for more than two years.

Emergency & Trauma | Press Releases

Parker Byrd and his care team pose for a photo outside of an ECU Health EastCare ambulance to celebrate the Patient Transport of the Year Award.

Greenville, N.C. ECU Health’s EastCare team was awarded MedEvac Transport of the Year by the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) for their initial transport of East Carolina University freshman Parker Byrd and subsequent transports throughout his recovery. The EastCare air medical team, Steve Bonn, pilot, Henry Gerber, EMT, Milando Stancill, EMT, Leigh Ann Creech, communication technician, Jessica Rispoli, flight RN and John vonRosenberg, flight paramedic, accepted the award on Oct. 26 for their efforts rendering life-saving care to Byrd.

On July 23, 2022, Byrd, an incoming freshman and baseball player at ECU, was boating in a remote creek when his legs were cut by the propeller, resulting in severe trauma. A friend and teammate was able to pull him back in the boat and immediately applied a makeshift tourniquet. First responders on the scene recognized the severity of his injuries and requested air medical transport. The EastCare air medical team jumped into action, rendering life-saving trauma care on the flight to ECU Health Medical Center, the only Level 1 Trauma Center east of Raleigh.

Parker Byrd and his care team pose for a photo outside of an ECU Health EastCare ambulance to celebrate the Patient Transport of the Year Award.

“EastCare team members dedicate themselves to ensuring the people of eastern North Carolina who live in vast, rural areas have access to timely and life-saving care,” said Trey Labreque, director of EastCare. “Thanks to the quick actions of everyone involved, including Beaufort County EMS for their initial response and clear communications with the flight crew, the transition of care was quick and efficient, and the patient made it to the trauma center stabilized, which is our objective as a flight team. This award is testament to all EastCare team members who live the ECU Health mission.”

Quick actions by the flight crew dramatically improved Byrd’s vital signs prior to arriving at ECU Health Medical Center. Flight nurses administered plasma, blood products and treatment for traumatic hemorrhagic shock during the air transport. In the following weeks, due to the severity of injury, the EastCare team provided Byrd transportation to the wound care center twice daily, multiple times per week to receive specialized care and hyperbaric treatments at ECU Health’s Wound Healing Center.

“The EastCare team has been nothing but phenomenal to me,” said Byrd. “From day one, they were doing their job to the best of their ability. I want to thank each and every person on the EastCare team for what they have done for me.”

Byrd was discharged in mid-August, nearly one month after his injury. After 22 surgeries and a partial leg amputation, Byrd continues to undergo outpatient care and rehabilitation in his recovery process. Byrd plans to continue classes at ECU and practice with the baseball team while he undergoes rehabilitation.

Please join ECU Health in recognizing the EastCare team for their rescue of Byrd and their efforts to render emergency care to all patients across eastern North Carolina.

Awards | EastCare | Emergency & Trauma | Featured | Press Releases

Greenville, N.C. – July 19, 2021 ECU Health Medical Center (VMC) is proud to announce it recently joined the American Trauma Society’s (ATS) network. VMC is one of only 130 hospitals in the United States designated as a Trauma Survivors Network (TSN) facility. TSN links survivors and their families with others who have shared experiences, providing support and resources to enable victims to rebuild their lives.

“We are extremely excited to provide resources patients and families need to recover both mentally and physically,” said Bryan Lake, trauma outreach coordinator at VMC. “Our goal is to compassionately support our survivors and community through all stages of trauma recovery. We have a unique, life-changing opportunity to guide patients and families through uncharted waters and convey the understanding they are not alone in this journey.”

The program aims to help survivors manage day-to-day challenges after a traumatic injury as well as bring together trauma survivors and families to connect with one another and share support and information about the recovery process.

Additionally, the TSN will collaborate with health care providers to deliver specifically tailored care and support to patients and their families and friends after a traumatic injury and will help build a community of advocates dedicated to improving injury prevention efforts and treatment.

“As one of only six hospitals in North Carolina to have earned Level I Trauma Center status, VMC is proud to offer quality care for trauma patients and their families and values this opportunity to further support them beyond the doors of the hospital,” said Lake. “Trauma patients will now have a community of people experiencing similar hurdles while adjusting to life after a traumatic injury.”

When a trauma patient is admitted to VMC, coordinators will introduce patients and families to the program. The network is open to all ages, from children to adults. Participants will be connected with other members both in the local area and around the country through virtual and in-person support groups.

The network is open to survivors, previous trauma patients, families, friends, health care workers and any community members. Those interested in joining the Trauma Survivors Network can visit its website to learn more.

Emergency & Trauma | Press Releases