Special Report: The Golden Hour

Melissa and Dr. Trent Pierce
Melissa and Dr. Trent Pierce

WEST MEMPHIS, AR (WMC-TV) - For the first time, a Mid-South doctor targeted by a homemade bomb is speaking openly about his recovery from the attack that nearly cost him his life.

Dr. Trent Pierce and his wife Melissa recently agreed to sit down with Action News 5 for their only interview since the shattering events of February 4, 2009.

"I believe that I'm alive today because of God's goodness and grace," Dr. Trent Pierce said. "I believe that I'm alive today because of the thousands and thousands of prayers that went up for me at the time of my injury. I believe God's goodness and grace was channeled through the very, very talented surgeons, nurses that provided care for me."
In order to give the Pierces a level of comfort about talking with us, Action News 5 agreed to focus only on the masterful job the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center and The MED did in saving the family physician's life.  In addition, we agreed to give the Pierces a preview of this story so they knew the spotlight shines on the healers at The MED.

The MED is the region's only Level One trauma center, and is the place you want to go for treatment for injuries suffered in a car accident, a head injury, burns or worse.

The Pierces recently returned to The MED to say, "Thank you."          

"You have to realize, they never saw Trent standing," Melissa Pierce said. "He came in on a stretcher and he left on a stretcher. And so one of the things I often said to the nurses, "I can't wait to bring my husband back. I can't wait for you to meet Trent Pierce. You're going to like him."

"We had a wonderful recovery through God's grace and through the skill of the trauma center at The MED," Dr. Trent Pierce added.

They're smiling now, but on February 4th, 2009, The MED's trauma team was fighting to save Dr. Pierce's life.

It began just before 8 o'clock that morning. As Dr. Pierce exited his West Memphis home, police say a spare tire was oddly and inexplicably leaning against his SUV. When Pierce moved the tire, it exploded.

The blast flung him six feet into a flower bed.  It embedded shrapnel in his neck and abdomen, broke a leg and a wrist, destroyed his left eye and burned nearly 20 percent of his body.

"One doctor can't do all those things," Melissa Pierce said. "It takes a whole team of doctors who've got specialties in bone, in eye, in burn, in plastics to make sure the best outcome is there for the patient."

In the Mid-South, only The MED has that kind of expertise on standby ready to treat Level One trauma at a moment's notice.  As the trauma team prioritized Dr. Pierce's many injuries, Ms. Pierce endured in the critical care waiting room.

Melissa Pierce said a MED chaplain checked on her regularly, and late that first night, the chaplain gathered her, her family and friends for prayer.

"We held hands, and her prayer of course asked for strength for Trent and for healing and favor. But there was a line in her prayer that resonated with me, and it is the reason that Trent and I decided we would talk to you. She said, 'Lord, let there be a testimony from this.' And it has rang in my ears many times everyday. That's the good that can come from this, that there needs to be a testimony from this," Melissa Pierce said.

In many ways, Melissa Pierce is the perfect witness to give testimony to the job The MED's team did in putting her husband back together.  She is not only a registered nurse and a doctor's, wife who manages their West Memphis clinic, but also a former chairperson of the Methodist Hospital Board of Trustees. Her observations are informed by a lifetime of dedicated service in medicine.

"The doctors and nurses were incredibly honest, I thought," she said. "They were very careful not to give you false hope. They were very particular about making sure during surgeries that they called down and you were informed. But they were very compassionate about not staining your joy or stifling your hope, either. The nurses I thought were incredibly skillful at being certain that you appreciated that trauma is day by day. Sometimes trauma is hour by hour. And sometimes it's just wait and see."

Dr. Trent Pierce underwent 11 hours of surgery on day one.  On day two, another eight hours of surgery.

"This trauma center has an amazing record," he said. "It has a 95 percent survival (rate), and a 98 percent survival if you survive the first 24 hours."

The doctor spent nearly two months in The MED.  The Pierces say they now want to help make sure the financially challenged hospital is here and ready for anyone who needs it.

"There is no other trauma center in this area," Dr. Trent Pierce said. "I don't think there's a trauma center closer than Nashville which gets you way outside the Golden Hour of maximum improvement in an individual that has suffered trauma."

"The numbers tell us that 500 Arkansans are assessed and treated for their injuries at The Med annually," Melissa Pierce added. "That's more than one a day. I don't know the solution. I don't know. But what I do know is my heart is full of gratitude and thanksgiving for the work that the trauma center did for Trent. And without their life saving care, I'd be sitting here by myself.">

"The Med must survive," Dr. Trent Pierce said. "The Elvis Presley Trauma Center must survive. Hospitalization for uninsured individuals must survive."

The MED saved Trent Pierce's life, and none of us knows when we might be injured in a wreck, a fall or worse and need the Elvis Presley Trauma Center.  To help make sure the hospital is able to buy cutting edge equipment and provide specialized clinical training, the Pierces made a gift to the MED Foundation's Annual Campaign.

You can, too.  To do so, click here, or go by any branch of First Tennessee Bank and make a donation to The Med's annual campaign.

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