Special bond

Doctor first saves, then enters, teenager’s life

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 5, 2013
Dr. Trevor Jain, a former army doctor, gave Tyson MacDonald a set of dog tags for inspiration. Jain saved the Savage Harbour teenager's life following a dirt bike crash in June.
Guardian photo by Jim Day

He just had to save this teen.

Dr. Trevor Jain knew he faced a dire situation when 14-year-old Tyson MacDonald arrived by ambulance around 3:30 p.m. on June 30 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s emergency department in Charlottetown.

Tyson, who had been riding a dirt bike since the age of six, was doing jumps on this day, something he hadn’t really done much of in the past. One jump went horribly wrong for the Savage Harbour youth. Tyson flew from the dirt bike, landing head first with ferocious force.

He suffered severe head trauma and a lacerated liver. His condition was critical.

“I had concerns this was not going to go well,’’ said Jain, an emergency specialist for the past four-and-a-half years at the QEH.

“He was the closest to death that I’ve seen on P.E.I. for pediatric trauma.’’

And Jain, who was an army doctor for years, has tended to more than his share of trauma patients. That was a good thing for Tyson — a very, very good thing.

Jain worked on limiting the damage to Tyson’s head in preparing him for transfer to hospital in Halifax.

Then Tyson’s lungs collapsed. Emergency surgery was performed.

Three times within two hours Jain thought he was going to lose his young patient. Yet Jain was determined to save this life.

Everything needed to go right. Everything did.

Jain is thankful for his military medical experience, most notably the “tricks of the trade’’ he used in trauma support, in aiding in the positive outcome. But he is also quick to laud the work of all those around him in the emergency department. The team was rock solid, right from those who ran to get blood to the cleaners disinfecting the trauma bay.

“I want to give credit to the team,’’ said Jain.

Linda MacDonald felt a strong reassurance that Jain was the right doctor for the difficult job of saving her son’s life.

“There was never a doubt in my mind that he was doing all that he could,’’ she said.

At some point in his life saving work on Tyson, perhaps quite early on, Jain started to develop a special bond with the critical patient.

For Jain, the dozen or so family members of Tyson waiting anxiously at the hospital helped instill a more personal sense to his demanding professional task at hand.

“This,’’ he recalled, “was a kid I was going to keep my eye on.’’

He did. He still does.

Tyson spent 16 days in the intensive care unit of IWK Health Centre in Halifax. Thirteen of those days he spent on life support.

“The first two weeks,’’ noted Jain, “nobody knew how it would go.’’

Jain certainly wanted to keep tabs on the teen’s state. He called the hospital almost every day to check on Tyson’s condition. At times, he spoke directly to Tyson’s sister and to Tyson’s mother.

“I wanted to let the family know we were thinking of them,’’ he said. “We felt a bond with Tyson and that family.’’

MacDonald was touched deeply by the doctor’s show of support and genuine interest in her son’s plight. She could tell Jain really cared.

“He went beyond the call of duty and that mattered: that made a difference to us,’’ she said.

Jain shared in the joy of Tyson’s family as the teen emerged from a perilous state, then began to improve surprisingly well and surprisingly fast.

MacDonald says doctors are amazed by her son’s recovery to date. Tyson, who receives physiotherapy once every two weeks, attends school in the afternoons in Grade 9 at Morell Regional High School. Contact sports, at least for now. are off limits. So too are dirt bikes.

“No long-term deficits that we have seen,’’ said MacDonald. “He’s a miracle, that is what he is. He doesn’t like being called that.’’

And Jain, in the eyes of MacDonald, is a miracle worker.

She calls the doctor Tyson’s guardian angel: a man that not only saved her son’s life but continues to watch over him. She was particularly touched by a visit to the QEH in September that she made with Tyson.

Word got out to Jain that the pair was coming. He planned a special surprise. After giving Tyson a hearty hug, Jain handed his former patient a set of personalized dog tags.

The tags sport the same Latin phrase ‘ducimus’ that grace the tags Jain wears all the time. The phrase, which means We Lead, is the motto of the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, which was Jain’s regiment for 14 years before he switched to the medical corps.

Jain says he wanted Tyson to have a symbol that sends the message that when things are going sour, keep putting one foot in front of the other.

“I thought ‘what a compassionate, caring man,’’’ said MacDonald. “We will never forget him.’’

Jain wouldn’t let them even if they tried. He plans to stay in contact with Tyson.

“I feel like a distant uncle or a real older brother and somewhat protective in that I really want him to live all his life (fully) and do everything that he wants to do,’’ said Jain.

Tyson certainly doesn’t want to leave in his dust the “great guy’’ who saved his life.

“We have such a strong connection, I find,’’ said Tyson.

“He feels like one of the family. I am going to try to keep in touch with him.’’