Olivia Nussbaum, Interventional Radiology

Barely six months after her pelvis was badly damaged in a car accident, Olivia Nussbaum walked onto the campus of Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia to start her freshman year without the wheelchair or crutches she had needed for months after the accident.

"Within the first week, friends asked if I could work out," said Olivia, a 21-year-old White Pigeon High School graduate who played volleyball and basketball. "I ran and not only did I run but I thought, 'OK, I ran and I feel fine!'"

It was a dramatic change from that day in February 2009 when she was driving the family car to Sturgis with her twin sister Erin in the passenger seat and friend Alan Harrington in the back. The traffic signal at U.S. 12 and U.S. 131 had turned green for her and as she entered the intersection the car was hit on the driver's side door by a vehicle whose driver had run the red light.

"I only remember bits and pieces after that," Olivia said. Erin, who was not injured, called for an ambulance and their parents as well as Alan's parents.

Initially, it was thought that Alan was more badly hurt, but both Olivia and Alan were taken by ambulance to Three Rivers Hospital.

"I remember mom coming to where we had the accident," Olivia said. "And I kind of remember the ride to the hospital. Once I was at the hospital I remember people coming in. I must have been in shock because I didn't really have any pain."

X-rays showed that Alan had a broken leg. When the doctors saw Olivia's X-rays they realized she was more seriously injured than thought initially. She not only had internal bleeding but her pelvis was badly fractured, an injury that required the kind of surgery not available at the hospital.

Olivia was flown by helicopter to Borgess Medical Center where she was examined by the team in the Trauma and Emergency Center. "I was put in a room but they decided not to do surgery immediately," she said. "We think it was because of the internal bleeding. By then I was in a lot of pain. It hurt whenever they moved me."

Surgery was postponed because of internal bleeding, said Dr. Terrence Wilkin, director of Interventional Radiology for Premier Radiology. "The majority of her injuries involved pretty bad pelvic fractures," Wilkin said. "We did arterial angiography to look for vessel bleeding and found that she was bleeding badly enough so that she couldn't have surgery."

Wilkin performed a coil embolization where he used a catheter to place small metal coils to block the loss of blood.

"Olivia was young and healthy and could tolerate the blood loss better than someone older and less healthy," he said. "But we needed to stop the internal bleeding so that she could undergo the surgery."

Once the bleeding was under control, Dr. Thomas G. Ryan, an orthopedic surgeon with Kalamazoo Orthopaedic Clinic PC, operated to repair the fractures. "She needed the surgery to stabilize and better align her pelvis," Dr. Ryan said. "She had what we call a segmental fracture where a whole piece of bone was loose."

Dr. Ryan said that Olivia had "a lot of bleeding" and that while an interventional radiologist is not always needed in trauma cases, "in this case it was safer to have him do it before we did the surgery. In this case it definitely helped."

A week after surgery Olivia was discharged for home in Union and was instructed not to walk initially.

"At first I used a wheelchair and used it at school," she said. "Alan needed a wheelchair, too, and everybody was very good and helpful to us."

Over the weeks both Olivia and Alan were able to use crutches and, near the end of the school year, walk unaided.

"When I graduated, I walked to get my diploma," she said.

White Pigeon High's girls' basketball team played in a district game that year but Olivia was still in the hospital and was unable to cheer even from the sidelines.

“That summer I still couldn't run or jump, not until September when Erin and I went to college,” she said. “Now I can move as fast and easily as I did before the accident. I don't feel the rod in my pelvis at all."

Olivia described the trauma team at Borgess as "awesome," and praised the doctors, nurses and other hospital professionals for good care and helpful attitude. "They were always there when I needed them," she said.

"When I was discharged I was excited, but a little sad, too, because there were a few nurses there I really enjoyed."