One second, one mistake, one phone call can change everything. Dennis Badgett was driving toward his home in Titusville, Florida, when his phone rang, and his world shifted. The call came from UF Health Jacksonville. Dennis’ 15-year-old son, Brandon, had been in a serious car accident.
Fear and worry coursed through Dennis as he headed to Jacksonville. “I was sick to my stomach,” he recalled. “I was going 90 mph. I never lifted my foot off the gas pedal that entire drive.”
Brandon and a friend were cruising down the interstate when the driver started to nod off. Brandon nudged him to wake him up. When he did, the driver got startled and jerked the wheel, causing them to crash into a tree at 70 mph.
When Dennis finally reached the Emergency Department, he had to wait until Brandon was out of surgery. “It was the longest hour of my life in that waiting room,” he said. “But a nurse came up, hugged me and said, ‘He’s alive. He’s OK.’”
That small gesture gave Dennis an ounce of hope that Brandon would pull through. Dennis learned Brandon had five facial fractures, lung contusions, fractures of both femurs, a lumbar spine fracture and a brain injury.
Brandon’s sister and a close family friend joined Dennis in Jacksonville. Because they were so far from home, Lisa Teel, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit nurse manager, made special arrangements for them to stay in a consult room.
“Usually we reserve that room, but in extreme instances where the family is not close, and the child is very sick, we make an exception. They needed to be here as things came up,” Teel said.
Three days after the accident, Brandon was brought out of sedation, although he was still intubated. He was given a pen and paper to communicate with his family. Dennis remembered the first sentence Brandon wrote. While incredible, it’s still a hard memory for Dennis to share.
“I was asking him, ‘Are you OK? Can I get you anything? ’ And he wrote down, ‘Dad, I thought I was going to die, but I couldn’t leave you.’”
This sentiment truly shows the extraordinary strength and determination Brandon had as he fought to stay alive May 22. When Brandon was brought into the Trauma Center on Sunday, both legs were put in traction using pins and screws to keep his femur bones in place. On Monday, the orthopaedic surgery team placed a rod in his left leg. Tuesday, the oral and maxillofacial surgery team operated on Brandon’s five facial fractures. Lastly, on Wednesday, the orthopaedic surgeons placed a rod in his right leg.
With four surgeries in four days, Teel was impressed Brandon’s strength never wavered. “He kept it together,” she said. “A lot of that had to do with the support his family provided him.”
While Dennis and his relatives were there to support Brandon, the nursing staff in the PICU worked tirelessly to support the entire Badgett family. The PICU is a great example of a multidisciplinary team working together to care for a patient.
“We really grew to care for the family as well,” Teel explained. “Anytime a pediatric patient comes in, we don’t just care for the patient in the bed, but we treat their family as patients, too.”
It has been a long journey for Dennis and Brandon, but both are incredibly thankful for the care they received at UF Health Jacksonville. “If this had to happen, I’m glad it happened where it did — where there are great doctors to treat him,” Dennis said.
During his stay, Brandon was treated by the trauma team, trauma psychology, OMFS, neurosurgery, orthopaedics, surgical intensive care and rehabilitation services.
“This was a nightmare you never wish on a parent,” Dennis said. “But UF Health Jacksonville is the reason Brandon is here today.”