Health Information

Alive to Tell it

By Alfredo Arango

Medical Editor

A group of survivors met in an emotional event that took place in the Kendall Regional Medical Center. There, survivors of various, near -fatal accidents, met with their loved ones and the surgeons, nurses, police, paramedics and Fire Rescue personnel who saved their lives.

Several teary-eyed patients spoke about their accidents and expressed how deeply they appreciated the staff that saved their lives in the Trauma Center at Kendall Regional, which opened its doors just six months ago, becoming the second in Miami-Dade County.

Kendall Trauma TestemiesTrauma survivors, doctors, rescue personnel and administrators, at Kendall Regional Medical Center.

The first patient treated at the Trauma Center at Kendall, César Villanueva, a 39 year-old Mexican, married and father of 2 children, ages 7 and 5, told how he and his friend from work received gunshot injuries during a street fight while they were dropping off merchandise at a restaurant.  His friend died at the scene; the gunshot impacted Villanueva in the abdomen, perforating five vital organs and leaving him in critical condition.

“The gunshot affected my stomach, liver, kidneys, spleen, and intestine.  Thank God, Dr. Marcela Ramirez, Dr. Mark G. McKenney and their entire medical staff I am once again among the living. It’s incredible that I am here to tell the story.  I am very happy to be alive,” said an emotional Villanueva as he hugged his family.

Marisol Fleites, 24 years old, explained the automobile accident in which she fractured her skull and injured both legs. “Dr. Cockburn immediately recognized that I had a brain injury, and Dr. Acebal performed a craniotomy to stop the bleeding and saved my life. With the exception of the maternity ward, there’s not a place in this hospital that I have not been in,” said Marisol in jest. 

Fleites’ mother, Caridad, commented: “It is a miracle. We are so lucky and blessed that she was brought here, because really the care that she has received, the way doctors treated her, everyone from the emergency room to even the woman who cleaned her room, was exceptional to her and to us. It is not an easy process to see your daughter on a respirator for days, not knowing when she wakes up what is going to happen. They were all so supportive, so reassuring.”   

Likewise, other patients and their families narrated the actions that brought them to the trauma center, the way in which they were treated, and the positive recovery in which many still find themselves.

Both the doctors as well as the director of the hospital, Scott Cihak, emphasized that saving these patients’ lives was possible thanks to the rapid intervention of the rescue personnel, particularly those in the helicopters in which the very critically injured patients are transported, and the fact that the trauma centers are equipped with technology and rely on highly specialized personnel and more adroit procedures to manage patients who arrive almost dead, in contrast to the regular emergency rooms, where these patients might not have the possibility of surviving.

Dr. McKenney, medical director of the Kendall Regional Trauma Center, said that physical trauma is the fourth cause of death after heart diseases, cancer, and stroke.  The trauma surgeon pointed out that these three causes of death tend to affect the elderly, whereas physical trauma tends to affect young people. The average trauma patient is 33 years old.  This, the physician pointed out, means that more years of life are lost due to physical trauma than any other reason.   

Dr. Marcela Ramírez, Trauma Surgeon, stated: “Today is a very happy day, seeing all these survivors.  It gives me joy to see how these patients have improved and are together with their families, after all the effort that we put forth in the hospital, where we treat an average of 90 critical trauma patients per month, or three daily.”  

Present at the trauma center meeting at Kendall Regional were local political figures, leaders of community assistance organizations for trauma victims, and members of the press, as well as Michael Joseph, CEO of Hospital Corporation of America, East Florida Division, parent company of the Kendall Regional Medical Center.

During this appearance in which the patients received medals for their bravery, a declaration was read in which the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, recently established the celebration of the Annual Trauma Day in Florida, which this year fell on May 22.

For further information, write to