Carolinas HealthCare System
Steven Shope, trauma survivor, and John Lester
Trauma survivors Stephen Shope and John Lester, both of Charlotte.

After losing his right arm and left forearm during a motorcycle accident in 2009, former patient Stephen Shope decided to make a difference in other trauma victims’ lives by volunteering for a program introduced to Carolinas HealthCare System last June for trauma patients and their families. The program, called Trauma Survivors Network (TSN), is designed to connect patients and their families to a community of trauma survivors for support during and following their hospitalization, as they rebuild their lives.

Placed in a medical coma for two weeks, Stephen, then 20 years old, was treated through multiple surgeries by Stephen Sims, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.  “I’m fortunate that the good Lord has kept me here for a special reason,” said Stephen.

As a trauma patient, Stephen was visited in the hospital by a former patient whose accident also resulted in the traumatic loss of both his arms and legs. The patient-turned-mentor – an elderly farmer – truly inspired Stephen, who marveled at his ability to drive a tractor and actively participate in running a farm. Eventually fitted with two prosthetic arms, Stephen went on to graduate with a degree in organizational communications from UNC-Charlotte in 2011. Everyone he meets describes him as positive and having very high energy.

After his experience, Stephen became involved with TSN and made an impact on trauma victim John Lester, who was involved in a car accident. With severe tissue and nerve damage, John underwent a series of reconstructive surgeries – performed by Dr. Sims – but his leg was eventually amputated just below the knee.

Following his amputation, John was visited by TSN coordinator Eileen Flores, who thought John could really benefit from the TSN program. A day after agreeing to meet his TSN peer visitor, there was a knock on John’s hospital door followed by his introduction to Stephen Shope.

“He talks about the things going through my head – about where I am and what the future holds for me,” said John. “He seriously means to walk this journey with me through my recovery, which is remarkable.”

“I’m living proof of the success of this department,” said Stephen. “For me, it’s simply a matter of giving back. My visits are the result of a gift given to me that I’m now fortunate to share with others.”

Personalized care is a major component of any patient experience, but its importance is especially true at Carolinas HealthCare System. As a peer visitor through the Trauma Survivors Network, Stephen Shope is sharing his personal experience to help empower other patients with traumatic injuries, within and beyond the hospital walls.