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New Directions

Issue: Winter 2009 - 2010

Trauma Victim's Arm Saved Thanks to Specialization at Suburban Hospital

Investigating criminal cases for the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C. is both exciting and sometimes dangerous, and it is Jessica Montoya's passion. She is aware of the danger and is trained to protect herself if the need should arise. But on March 18, something that none of us is prepared for happened to Jessica.


After wrapping up an investigation in Northwest D.C., she was crossing a street and was hit by a car. Besides a punctured lung, broken collarbone, and shoulder, her left arm had multiple fractures and the flesh was completely gone on her forearm.


The ambulance rushed her to Suburban Hospital, the region's Level 2 trauma center. The first priority of the trauma team was to stabilize Jessica and take care of the punctured lung. Saving the arm of the 24-year-old Silver Spring resident was next. The team called in Dr. Tim Bhattacharyya, chief of orthopedic trauma at Suburban Hospital. Bhattacharyya, who received his fellowship training at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in cases with multiple and complex fractures just like Jessica's, and where the preservation of a limb is in question.


"In Jessica's case, she might very well have lost her arm if we had not been able to act quickly," says Dr. Bhattacharyya. "In the short term, we were concerned about infection and for the future we wanted to give Jessica back a functioning arm."


Bhattacharyya said they had to work methodically to go through fixing one bone at a time. He said because of the way the bones were fractured, the arm was not stable enough to heal in a cast, so metal plates had to be surgically implanted. Skin from her leg was used to close off the gaping wound on her arm. One thing that Bhattacharyya recalls about Jessica is that even when she was in the ICU, she was surrounded by a lot of family members who were there to support her through many surgeries and her recovery.


"Orthopedic trauma is a critical specialization to have on our team," says Dr. Dany Westerband, Director of Trauma Services at Suburban Hospital. "In the recent past, if someone in our area sustained the type of injuries that Jessica did, the ambulance would likely have taken her to a hospital at least 45 minutes away from home, friends and family."


Some of her injuries will take longer to heal, but Jessica says she is almost as good as new. "I am lucky Dr. Bhattacharyya was there for me and so thankful for the incredible care I received at Suburban Hospital." 


TO LEARN MORE | For information on Emergency/Trauma Care, visit www.suburbanhospital.org/EmergencyCare. For more information on Orthopedic Care, visit


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