Emergency – Channel 4
St George’s major trauma teams feature in a brand-new ground-breaking documentary series airing every night from Monday 28 February – Thursday 3 March on Channel 4 at 9pm.
This is the first time a UK medical documentary series has broadcast on consecutive nights ever.
St George’s is one of the four Major Trauma Centres in London featured in the new series, alongside King’s College, St Mary’s and The Royal London hospitals as well as London’s Air Ambulance and William Harvey Hospital’s trauma unit in Ashford.
Filmed in the busiest trauma month of 2021’s summer, the series takes a closer look at London’s Major Trauma Network following the minute-by-minute decisions made by teams at St George’s, and the other Major Trauma Network teams, as they treat the most critically injured patients.
The series shows the pioneering care and treatment trauma patients receive, from roadside critical interventions through resus to ICU and from surgery to rehabilitation to reflect the variety of specialist treatment that goes into saving patients’ lives and putting them back together again.
You can read more about the series here: New St George’s major trauma documentary airs next week for a TV first.
The first episode of Emergency sees London’s Air Ambulance dispatched to 58-year-old Peter who has been crushed under a 400kg crate whilst at work. Dr Chloe’s job is to “bring the hospital to the patient” and assess which injuries are the most critical. She rushes him to St George’s Hospital – one of the four dedicated Major Trauma Centres in London treating the most severely injured. Here the team discover breaks to his pelvis that will need to be painstakingly repaired if he is to walk properly again.
28-year-old Danilo is brought by HEMS to St Mary’s following a serious motorbike crash. Danilo has multiple serious injuries designating him a “polytrauma”. Most concerning of all is a rupture to his aorta that could blow at any moment. Vascular Surgeon Colin tells us “90% of these die at the scene” as Danilo is fast-tracked to theatre.
A night of violence in the capital sees hospitals flooded with stabbings – one of whom – Wayland arrives at St Mary’s where Trauma and Vascular Surgeon, Morgan is leading the team. “A stab wound can be very catastrophic….if the laceration is big enough you can bleed out in minutes.” Wayland is rushed to emergency surgery.
78-year-old Wesley is transferred to St Mary’s, following a fall. Scans reveal a spinal emergency – one small move and his skull could detach from the top of spine. Wesley will require urgent, complex surgery, but an underlying condition and his worries about the operation may prove difficult to overcome.
28-year-old Danilo remains in intensive care at St Mary’s Major Trauma Centre after life-saving surgery to repair his ruptured aorta – the main blood vessel from his heart – after a serious motorbike crash. Now surgeons must fix his other potentially life changing injuries starting with his shattered pelvis.
Orthopaedic Surgeon Chris leads the team as they try to rebuild his pelvis and acknowledges, “there’s a high risk Danilo won’t ever fully recover”. This is one of many surgeries for Danilo and his partner Giulia is worried about the physical and mental impact, “I’m just scared to death. I don’t know what’s gonna happen and how he’s gonna handle it.”
Meanwhile, 12-year-old Lily arrives at St George’s having been hit by a car on a main road whilst on her way home from her local park. She was treated by emergency doctors at the scene and placed in an induced coma. CT scans reveal a skull fracture, broken pelvis and hip and Consultant Melissa has to relay the bad news to Lily’s parents, “It must be absolutely horrendous for parents not knowing if their little girl’s going to have a brain injury.”
Lily is taken to intensive care and after a sleepless night for her parents, she now faces major surgery to fix a rare and complicated hip fracture. Orthopaedic Surgeon Emmett explains they need to carefully realign the hip bones in the correct angle and avoid any potential shortening of her leg to give her the best chance of walking normally again.
Also at St George’s, it’s been 24 hours since 58-year-old Peter had major surgery to repair his pelvis with screws and plates after he was crushed by a crate at work. Today Physiotherapist Stephen will begin the process of getting him back on his feet “he needs to learn to trust the metalwork in his body”. It’s the big first step that will tell them if he’s ready for the long road of intensive physical and mental rehabilitation.
78-year-old, ex-Royal Marine Wesley is also at St Mary’s after he fell off a chair watching television and exacerbated an on-going spinal problem that resulted in a seriously unstable neck, “one false move and his head could fall off his neck”. Now Wesley’s underlying infection has cleared, he is fit enough to undergo the complex operation using screws, metal plates and rods to connect his skull to his neck. Consultant Spinal Neurosurgeon Cheong knows that the good news comes with a layer of anxiety, “if the surgery is not successful he could be paralysed from the neck down”.
Every year 2500 people suffer a spinal cord injury. At William Harvey Hospital in Kent – a designated trauma unit in the far south of the network – 17-year-old Frazer has arrived after falling twenty feet down a cliff. Consultant Jonathan is taking him for MRI scans to assess the severity of the damage to his spinal cord. As the scans appear on the screen, the seriousness of the injury is all too apparent, “it’s a complete transection…this injury is life changing”.
Meanwhile, London’s Air Ambulance are dispatched to 51-year-old Philip after his car collided with a bus. As firefighters try to extract him from the car, Dr Chloe gets her first look at Philip, “there’s a lot of blood around his head, he needs to come out”. Philip is rushed to St George’s Major Trauma Centre in South West London. Consultant Harriet assesses his multiple injuries and is concerned about a lack of sensation in his legs. She orders more detailed scans and refers him to neurologists, “the next few days will have huge implications for Philip’s quality of life”.
28-year-old Danilo had life-saving surgery at St Mary’s to repair a rupture to the main blood vessel from his heart – after a serious motorbike crash. He’s since had four major surgeries including an operation to fix his damaged bowel resulting in an open wound in his stomach. General Surgeon, Christos will now close the wound using a ground-breaking technique – specially treated pig skin.
12-year-old Lily is in intensive care at St George’s after being hit by a car. Doctors are concerned about a potential brain injury and today she faces surgery to repair her badly broken hip. Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Omar needs to fix her hip in the correct angle using screws and a plate, “when you’re operating on a child…it has implications on that child for the rest of their life”. But as the operation continues, Omar has to revert to plan B to complete the surgery.
At Royal London, 17-month-old Mika’eel suffered short seizures after a television fell on his head. Emergency Medicine Registrar Akshay makes the decision to scan his head for a potential brain injury. Mum Sarah describes what happened, “it’s every mothers’ worst nightmare”.
Back at St George’s, Lily has been woken from her induced coma. Initial signs show she has no obvious brain injury and her parents have been by her side almost the entire time. Today Physiotherapists will see if she can stand for the first time since the surgery to fix her broken hip.
At William Harvey, Trauma Director Tasha has to deliver the bad news to Frazer and his mum, “he’s undoubtedly paralysed to some extent for the rest of his life”. She tries to get Frazer to think positively about his future, “although your life is going to be different….your ability to rehab is going to be fab… you will do that” and reminds him he’s not alone, “you’ve fallen but the whole system is going to catch you”. Events take another turn for the worse when Frazer’s spine becomes very unstable, and he needs to be transferred to King’s College Major Trauma Centre in London for an urgent operation by the highly specialised Neurosurgeons.
The final episode of Emergency follows an 18-year-old motorcyclist as surgeons try to rebuild his leg and concludes the journeys of the patients filmed across the series and reveal their extraordinary recoveries.
18-year-old Leyton is brought by air ambulance to William Harvey Hospital in Kent – a trauma unit in the far south of the network – after he crashed his moped. He has multiple injuries including an open leg fracture. Trauma Director Tasha unwraps the bandages to reveal his bone sticking out of his leg, “that is proper broken” and CT scans reveal, “a multiple- fragments fracture…that will need 3 or 4 operations.” Tasha explains, “He’s at the border of what we would keep” and calls the orthopaedic team at King’s Major Trauma Centre who agree to admit him for emergency surgery.
Frazer is currently at King’s undergoing surgery to support his unstable spine to give him the best chances of rehabilitation. His mum and dad are waiting at the hospital and mum says, “I’ve been trying to be strong around Frazer not crying…we don’t definitely know if he’s going to be paralysed until the results of the operation.” It’s a tense wait for Frazer’s parents and whilst the operation to stablise the bones is a success, Consultant Neurosurgeon Irfan confirms that the damage to the spinal cord is “very bad….and we can’t bring that back….it’s very sad to break this news”.
Over at St George’s, 51-year-old Philip who has suffered paralysis from the waist down after his car collided with a bus is now under the care of the neuro team. Today his wife Kirsty has come to visit. She feels “lucky to have him alive” and vows “they will get through this.” Neurosurgical Registrar, Adrian tells Kirsty that he will now be referred to a specialist unit for rehabilitation.
In East London, London’s Air Ambulance are rushing a 60-year-old man who crashed his moped into a wall to The Royal London. Emergency Medicine Registrar Katie is leading the trauma team, “stepping up to take the lead in a trauma can be quite daunting…you need to focus.” She is concerned about Peter’s head injury and CT scans reveal a bleed on the brain that is potentially life threatening, “we need to be aggressive in treating the bleed…time is brain.”
Overnight Leyton has made the sixty mile journey from William Harvey in Kent to King’s in South East London. Consultant Surgeon Toby reviews his scans “it’s a nasty injury and will take some fixing”. He explains to Leyton that he will need multiple operations and it’s a 6 to 12 month project. Leyton is visibly shocked, “I did not expect that.” As Toby beings the first operation to rebuild Leyton’s leg, he explains “it’s never me who heals the patient, it’s the team and the patient themselves…it always takes longer than you want it to.”
The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore is one the hospitals in the London Major Trauma System specializing in rehabilitation. This is where Philip will begin the long road of rehabilitation. Consultant Alex discusses the lack of improvement in Philip’s mobility and how they will teach him to look after himself without carers. Philip says he’s determined to walk him again leading Alex to tell him “We love to be proved wrong”.
After his treatment at King’s, Frazer is now at Kent and Canterbury Hospital under the care of the specialist rehabilitation team. Now Frazer can shower and dress himself, he’s enjoying his independence. As doctors assess the sensation in his feet, there are small signs of improvement giving Frazer and his dad encouragement, “I want him to keep going…and get himself independent as that’s what he wants”.
Finally, we catch up with the patients filmed across the series and reveal their near miraculous recoveries made possible by the teams across the London Major Trauma System. As we see Danilo at home after his life saving surgeries, he pays tribute to “the heroes” who saved him.