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Jan 7, 2013 8:24 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Arizona takes lead in treating traumatic brain injuries

TUCSON - Arizona is leading the country in ways to improve patient care for traumatic brain injuries.

For Jennifer Atchely and Greg Roy, that's what changed their lives after a motorcycle accident severely disabled Greg's mobility and speech back in 2011.

"I told him I was going to get through this with him so that's what we're doing," Atchley said.

However, for Atchley it was especially difficult as she was the flight nurse who responded to Greg's accident.

"It puts you into a whole different realm of understanding where the medical system is broken," Atchely said.

She now trains first responders, part of a state-wide effort that is reaching new heights. The Excellence in Prehospital Injury Care project, or EPIC, has been implemented in nearly 100 fire departments and air ambulance groups, covering more than 80 percent of Arizonans.

Sean Culliney, the EMS training coordinator for Northwest Fire Department, demonstrated the difference in air ventilation and equipment for News 4 Tucson.

As far as traumatic brain damage, Arizona has taken the lead on the front lines in patient care. It's implementation could make the difference between life and death, according to an emergency care expert at the University of Arizona Medical Center.

"Literally five minutes of not getting properly cared for can be the difference of going to college or going to a nursing home, or literally surviving versus not surviving," said Daniel Spaite, M.D.

The project encourages the use of national standards which have equated to changes in the types of equipment first responders use and how to treat a patient in shock.

That's a stepping stone that Atchley is impassioned about as she tried to save and improve lives -- something she could have only hoped for with Greg Roy.

"I just always told him he's my best friend and I hope for the best, for him trying to get to a much more independent life," Atchley said.

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