Taylorville Emergency Department Saves Teen’s Life

Teenager Carter Sinkhorn, sporting a friendly smile, remembers nothing from Jan. 1, 2017, but his mom Lisa can recall every second.

It was the 3 a.m. call no parent ever wants to receive–your child, a party, alcohol, driving home and a terrible wreck.

Early New Year’s morning, Carter, then 17, crashed his truck into a tree, less than a mile from home. The truck, caught in the tree and suspended in the air, had Carter in a death grip, his legs pinned in the cab and the rest of his body hanging outside the driver’s side window.

As Lisa and Jimmy Sinkhorn scrambled to get dressed, the county deputy arrived at their house. Arch Air Medical Helicopter Service had been called to airlift him.

“One of the firemen stood on the front tire, holding Carter while the other paramedic was trying to give him breaths with a mask,” Lisa said. “He wasn’t breathing well on his own. They couldn’t intubate him (create an airway) because his jaw was crushed. They just kept suctioning blood and trying to give him breaths. He had minutes to live.”

Once they extricated him from the vehicle, it became clear to the paramedics that the Taylorville Memorial Hospital Emergency Department (ED) was Carter’s best chance at surviving the next hour.

Arriving in the ED

David Riesenberger, MD, emergency room physician, remembers that night well.

“Carter was unresponsive and in respiratory distress,” he said. “It was a prolonged extrication, and he needed to be stabilized before transferring him to Springfield. It was a good thing they came to us, because his upper airway was closing off due to swelling and bleeding. We couldn’t get a pulse in his right arm so we had to straighten his arm in order to restore circulation.”

Carter’s face was so unrecognizable that, upon his ED arrival, Cassandra Peat, BSN, RN, went through his pockets to find identification. The driver’s license showed a familiar name. Lisa Sinkhorn had worked in the ED with the TMH team before taking another job in Springfield.

The broken young man fighting for his life was Lisa’s son.

“You have to keep doing as much as you can even though it hits too close to home,” Cassandra said. “I told Lisa, ‘I don’t think you realize how bad he is.’”

However, Lisa, an RN herself, knew. When friends and acquaintances questioned why Carter wasn’t immediately flown to Springfield from the accident scene for trauma care, she is adamant.

“Because he would have died,” she said. “Literally, the ED team at Taylorville Memorial saved his life. He wouldn’t be sitting here if they didn’t take him to Taylorville Memorial.”

Path to Recovery

Now 18, Carter’s routine includes regular physical therapy at TMH, drug and alcohol counseling because of his DUI and continued surgeries to repair his extensive injuries.

He recognizes how fortunate he was to have attended his junior prom with girlfriend, Jade, just months after the wreck. He is in his senior year at South Fork High School and thinks he might want to become a police officer someday. He is back behind the wheel of a different truck, but he does not drink and drive.

He is also grateful for the support he received from his sister, Mallory Sassatelli, and brother, Spencer Sinkhorn, as well as friends and family.

Lisa remembers the day they returned to the ED at TMH to say, “Thank you.”

“Carter walked in on crutches, and Dr. Riesenberger told him ‘I didn’t think you would be this far along,’” she said. “They are all such an incredible group of people, and we are just so grateful.”