Patient Story - Tom Loveless
Tom Loveless is a skilled skateboarder who knows the importance of wearing a helmet every time he gets on his board. “I’ve skateboarded since I was a kid,” says Tom, 32 years old. “I had my first board as a preteen and continued the sport when I was married. It’s relaxing, excellent exercise and allows me to spend time with my children.”
A self-professed safety nut, Tom always dons a helmet when skateboarding and insists his children follow suit. But Tom admits he made a poor decision on Sunday, June 28, 2009. It was a crystal-clear day and the accomplished skateboarder wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather with a quick run at Lea McKeighan Park in Lee’s Summit. “I didn’t wear a helmet,” he says. “I crashed onto the concrete from 10 feet, the park’s highest point.”
Tom was immediately surrounded by the community of fellow skateboarders who didn’t know him but knew a serious medical situation was unfolding. Tom remembers there were almost 40 people skating that day and several of them watched over him while another grabbed a cell phone and dialed 911. The paramedics transported the battered and bleeding skateboarder to Centerpoint Medical Center’s Level II Trauma Center, the only one in eastern Jackson County.
“I asked the paramedic where they were taking me,” says Tom. “He said Centerpoint in Independence because their head trauma department is the best in the area.”
Upon arriving at Centerpoint Tom recalls a swarm of doctors and nurses assessing his head injury, checking vitals and testing his cognitive abilities. Dazed and anxious, Tom says at least two-to-three nurses or a doctor was always in the room with him. “They were incredibly nurturing,” he says.
Steven Wilkinson, MD, a neurosurgeon with Midwest Brain, Spine and Neurology Associates, explained to Tom that he needed a CT scan in order to understand the scope of the head injury. Within an hour of undergoing the scan, Tom was listening to Dr. Wilkinson explain that the two cracks in his skull didn’t require surgery but that he would be kept in intensive care for constant monitoring.
“Even in my distraught state I could tell Dr. Wilkinson didn’t consider me just another number,” says Tom. “He treated me like family but with a high degree of professionalism.”
Jill and Gary Loveless, Tom’s parents, witnessed firsthand the expedient and compassionate care their only son received in Centerpoint’s Trauma Unit. “Everyone was bustling and intent on their job,” says Jill. “But Dr. Wilkinson and the staff took obvious care to make sure we were comfortable and understood exactly what was happening with Tommy.”
Tom was discharged from Centerpoint on July 3 and considers his experience at the hospital one that transcended just expert physical care. “It was very spiritual,” says Tom. “Everyone took great care with me and my parents to ensure we were informed.”
One of Tom’s pledges during his stay at Centerpoint was to launch an awareness campaign targeted to the skateboard and inline skating culture about head safety. His new organization, Helmets In Hands, aims to educate and distribute helmets to skaters. “Centerpoint and Dr. Wilkinson are donating 150 helmets for our inaugural event this fall,” says Tom. “That’s a hospital thinking out-of-the-box.”