Prowers Medical Center – Celebrating a Life and Those Who Saved It



Like most parties, there was cake and punch, gifts, and of course, lots of photos to capture important moments. But this was no ordinary celebration.

Ten-year-old Garrett Miller was the guest of honor at a get-together at Prowers Medical Center on July 22, and the attendees were many of the medical providers who played a part in saving his life. His school nurse was there, along with an OR tech and two surgeons who operated on him. Even CareConnect – the La Junta-based air ambulance – showed up and gave Garrett a personal tour of the helicopter that whisked him from Lamar to UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs after he suffered a life-threatening injury on his school’s playground.

Flight Crew, Medical Staff and Miller Family

“The emergency department and operating room staff at Prowers Medical Center were absolutely amazing and saved my son’s life, and I cannot express how thankful we are for all involved,” said Garrett’s mother, Donna Miller.  “And for the staff at UCHealth: Thank you for everything you did –  always keeping us informed and updated and for taking such good care of Garrett. Again, we cannot thank you enough.”

(L) Dr. Tiffany Willard, UCHealth Memorial Hospital trauma surgeon. Garrett Miller and Dr. Christine Bogardus of Prowers Medical Center (R)

Garrett was on the playground at Alta Vista Charter School in April when he fell, landing on landscaping edging used on the playground.

In the emergency room at Prowers Medical Center, a scan showed Garrett suffered a liver laceration, and he was bleeding internally and lost nearly half of his blood. Dr. Christine Bogardus, a surgeon, took him into the OR to try to stop the bleeding. And she made a phone call to Dr. Tiffany Willard, a trauma surgeon at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. Bogardus had trained under Willard and still had her mentor’s personal cell number in her contact list.

“I called her directly and ran through my plan,” said Bogardus, who was able to pack the injury and stop the bleeding. The CareConnect flight team had also been called and was at the ready to make the 45-minute flight to UCHealth Memorial Central. “Garrett flew out of here with an open belly,” Bogardus said.

After Garrett arrived at Memorial Central – the only Level I Trauma Center in southern Colorado – Willard cared for him.

“He went straight from the helicopter to the OR,” recalled Willard. “Essentially, had Dr. Bogardus not operated, he never would have made the flight to Colorado Springs. She saved his life. She stabilized him and got him launched and we just kind of finished up from there,’’ Willard said.

Willard said that everything fell into place to ensure Garrett received the care he needed to save his life, adding that UCHealth has been working for many years to ensure that patients in rural areas receive seamless care, coordinating expertise from EMS crews in rural communities, local emergency departments and flight crews. In Garrett’s case, the handoff to Memorial Hospital Central worked excellently, Dr. Willard said. She also praised the school nurse who recognized Garrett’s situation was an emergency. “I felt it was a seamless process – just how it should be. It was so nice seeing everyone pulling together.”

At Monday’s party in his honor, Garrett said, “I’m happy.’’

His mother asked: “Are you happy about all of this or are you happy to be alive?’’

“I’m happy to be alive,” Garrett said.

(Special Article to The Prowers Journal)

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