Triumphing over trauma: VGH patients show how human spirit prevails

Emergency and Critical Care Medicine Physician Dr. Omar Ahmad was on shift in the Victoria General Hospital (VGH) Intensive Care Unit (ICU) the night a windstorm caused a tree to crash onto Ann Bailey’s home. He recalled, “Ann couldn’t talk, and she sustained serious injuries. Her son wrote an obituary and prepared a memorial service, not expecting her to make it. It just speaks to how much these traumatic events impact the patient and entire family.”

“It was so very scary. I was sitting at my computer, stuck, pinned by a tree. I couldn’t move,” recalled the 84-year-old Langford senior of the April 2022 event. “I am so thankful for what all the health care staff have done for me.”


Pictured: A tree that crashed onto Ann Bailey’s home

Two years later, after four weeks in the ICU, months of care on other hospital units and in a seniors’ retirement home, Bailey is now back living on her own, at her home of 17 years, with roof repairs complete. Her life looks a little different now, doing physiotherapy, having Island Health Home Support Service workers help out, and using a cane or getting around the garden. She even regularly does a chair exercise program.

Nicole Garside is one of the health care aides who worked closely with Bailey during her recovery on the Orthopedic Trauma Unit at VGH. “Miss Bailey was the tiniest little thing in a big hospital bed with all the tubes and drains. Seeing her at first, I didn’t know how she’d survive. But she was really determined to get up and moving early on, and now she can, with a walker and a few modifications to her home,” said Garside.

“Seeing more complex and traumatic injuries has opened my eyes to how fast life can change so quickly. You could be out for a walk, for a drive, minding your own business and in the blink of an eye everything can change. I’m no longer taking anything for granted,” she said.

It was a car crash in Saanich that landed 21-year-old Natasha Cochrane in VGH last summer for six weeks with a devastating traumatic brain injury. She’s now able to read, write and talk, and aims to drive and live independently again.


Natasha Cochrane and family. Image courtesy of the Victoria Hospital Foundation.

“I’ve gone past the crying stage, and I’m now at the laughing at the whole thing stage,” Cochrane said. “I heard there were more than 75 hospital staff who helped save me, and I needed blood. It’s not lost on me about how many people are involved in what it takes to save a life. I appreciate their efforts to help me get to where I am today.”

Garside said, “It’s sometimes a long recovery and can be very challenging. It really is mind over matter - if you want to get better you can do it. It is absolutely awe-inspiring to witness the mindset and motivation that some people tap in to.”


Pictured: Nicole Garside, Line Lavoie, Jolene Milkowski, Ann Bailey, Helene Trudel, Ann's son Tim Bailey. Image courtesy of the Victoria Hospital Foundation.

“Both Ann and Natasha’s incredible experiences highlight the importance of an inclusive regional trauma program and the impact a coordinated trauma system has on the health of its population,” said Dr. Dennis Kim, Island Health Medical Director for Trauma Services. “Ann and Natasha are exemplars of the strength of the human spirit, and their unique journeys remind us of the significant roles families and loved ones play in the recovery and healing of injured patients.”

In April 2022, Dr. Kim and his team created a trauma recovery clinic at VGH where patients who have been discharged from hospital can receive follow-up care. In October 2022, Island Health formalized a regional trauma care service at VGH; an experienced team of physicians, nurses and allied health professionals is dedicated to providing high quality care around the clock, 365 days a year. In January 2023, the trauma service expanded to include Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH) to care for people in Central and North Island.