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Beth Jones: Trauma Patient

Beth Jones: Trauma Patient

Help in the Most Critical Times

"They responded in amazing ways. I felt like I had the whole hospital ready for me."

Beth is an experienced trail runner and hiker. She leads backpacking trips and day hikes to help people connect to nature. But while on a solo hike in the winter of 2022, Beth suffered life-threatening injuries.

Coming down the mountain behind her home, Beth slipped on a patch of snow and fell. She estimates she slid about 50 to 60 feet before striking a tree at high speed.

"I don't remember impacting it," she says of the tree. "I remember it coming at me, and then I remember lying next to it on the ground in this kind of divot in the mountain. It was kind of like the mountain was holding me. And I thought, I'd better get home.

"I stood up, and as soon as I stood up, I realized that I was in trouble, that there was a lot more wrong with me. I couldn't walk or go anywhere."

Beth called 911, and a rescue team located her and lifted her down off the mountain. An ambulance rushed her to UPMC Williamsport's trauma unit.

Her injuries included 12 broken vertebrae, six broken ribs, a broken bone in her shoulder, a broken orbital bone, and a broken finger. She also had a concussion, lacerations in her head that needed stitches, and was hypothermic from lying in the snow.

Although Beth remembers only bits and pieces of the care she received, the professionalism of the trauma team impressed her.

"They responded in amazing ways," she says. "I felt like I had the entire hospital ready for me. I know they probably had many other patients to attend to, but I felt like I was the only one."

Ronald Disimone, MD, performed fusion surgery on Beth to treat her spinal injuries. He installed two titanium rods and 24 screws to fuse together her thoracic spine. After the surgery, she spent several days in intensive care and a couple more in the step-down unit before transferring to physical therapy.

Beth remembers the physical therapy team's encouragement as they helped her take her first steps since her accident. She remembers walking down the hallway with her care team, looking out the window, and seeing the mountains.

"I think that was the turning point for me," she says. "Like, if I can do this, I can build on this."

Beth is back to doing what she loves, leading hikes and backpacking trips.

"Just being able to get out again and just being able to walk in the woods and be still in nature has been one of the biggest parts of my healing," she says.

She's thankful to everyone who helped her after her accident: from the 911 operator who took her call, to the firefighters and paramedics who responded, to her entire care team at UPMC Williamsport. She's gotten a chance to go back and thank all of them for helping her in her time of need.

Beth didn't choose to need emergency care, but she did choose UPMC.