CALGARY — Kolton Dushanek nearly died in a motorcycle crash earlier this year and had the accident happened outside the zone serviced by the Foothills Medical Centre, he probably would be dead.

In  April, the 30-year-old Sylvan Lake resident lost control of his motorcycle on loose gravel, suffering two critical, life-threatening injuries.

While either of those injuries, a torn aorta and a shredded liver, alone could have killed him, the combination likely would have, had Dushanek been taken to a traditional trauma centre.

Instead he was taken to the Interventional Trauma Operating Room (ITOR) at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.

“He was critically ill. He was bleeding to death from two different places,” said trauma surgeon, Dr. Chad Ball.

“Both of those had to be fixed in the same location at the same time.”

Because of ITOR’s advanced technologies, teams of surgeons were able to repair both injuries simultaneously.

For Dushanek, it meant one surgical team performed traditional, open surgery on his liver, while at the same time  another team used angiography and specialized catheters to repair his aorta.

Surgeons have traditionally only been able to work on one serious internal bleed at a time.  As a result many patients die from their second injury while the first is being dealt with.

In those situations, the death rate for severely injured patients with ongoing bleeding is about 50 per cent.

New research conducted by Ball shows that about 80 of people like Dushanek can trace their survival to the ITOR, at Foothills Medical Centre. 

“With the use of the ITOR, the death rate has gone down to 16 per cent,” he said.

“That may not sound like a lot, but the order of magnitude in terms of change is really historic. (It is) the equivalent of saving one additional life a month.” 

When it opened in March 2013 the ITOR was one of the first facilities of its kind anywhere in the world. It is still the only hybrid OR in the Alberta specifically used to treat traumatic injuries.

The ITOR was funded by the Calgary Health Trust and Alberta government at a cost of $6 million.

“It was just obvious it was a priority for the community to improve trauma care and improve the care of those individuals,” said Mike Meldrum, president and CEO of Calgary Health Trust.

“The trauma care in Calgary is world class because of this facility, and that’s something we can all be proud of.”

Since the ITOR suite opened in 2013, Calgary Health Trust has funded two new, hybrid ORs, one for cardiac surgery  at Foothills Medical Centre and another for vascular surgery at the Peter Lougheed Centre.

Today, Dushanek is still recovering  after spending close to 70 days in hospital, 30 of those in intensive care.

“Six years ago, I really wouldn’t have had a chance and here I am now,” he said.

“I have a new daughter and my son and I’m back and living life and doing so well, it’s incredible. It’s just incredible they have places like this or I wouldn’t have had a chance to make it.

Dushanek’s wife and children relocated to Calgary during his recovery. The family is now planning their return to Sylvan Lake.