For Immediate Release November 18, 2023


Karen Warmkessel:

Tiffani Washington:

One Maryland, One Shock Trauma logo

The R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) will host its 33rd annual Shock Trauma Heroes Celebration tonight, honoring 85 trauma professionals and first responders who saved the lives of two critically injured patients – a 59-year-old man thrown 80 feet in a horrific motorcycle crash and a 77-year-old woman struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking near her home.

Both patients – Scott D. Spitnale of Keedysville in Washington County and Ellen F. Lightman of Pikesville in Baltimore County – were near death and battled back from massive blood loss, multiple fractures and other life-threatening injuries, surviving as the result of the exceptional care they received at Maryland's highest-level trauma center.

This year's theme, "One Maryland, One Shock Trauma," highlights the extraordinary collaboration between Shock Trauma and its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) partners throughout the state. Shock Trauma is at the center of the unique, highly coordinated statewide system – a national model for trauma care. The event also provides philanthropic support to Shock Trauma, which is recognized as one of the world's leading trauma centers.

"One of my greatest privileges is having the opportunity to work alongside our extraordinary trauma care teams and our remarkable partners within Maryland's EMS system," said Thomas M. Scalea, MD, Shock Trauma's Physician-in-Chief and the Honorable Francis X. Kelly Distinguished Professor of Trauma Surgery and Director of the Program in Trauma at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM).

"Every day, these courageous men and women navigate unique and complex challenges. They do so without hesitation and at times, even risking their own health and well-being to save the life of another," said Dr. Scalea, who is also System Chief of Critical Care Services for the 11-hospital University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS).

Shock Trauma has the highest designation for trauma care in the state as a Primary Adult Resource Center (PARC). Doctors there treat nearly 7,000 critically ill and severely injured patients each year with a 95 percent survival rate.

The celebration will be held from 6 pm to midnight at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.

Funds from this year's event will benefit Shock Trauma's Violence Prevention Program (VPP), which provides trauma-informed care and support to patients who are injured as the result of gun violence and other violent crime. The goal of the program is to reduce the likelihood that patients will be re-hospitalized due to violent injury.

Shock Trauma is one of the pioneers of hospital-based violence intervention programs and serves as a model for similar programs nationwide. Caseworkers assess patients at the bedside and link them with mental health services and community-based resources as well as legal assistance. The program also collects data on the root causes of interpersonal, often generational violence.

"We have had this program for over two decades, and it serves those patients who come in as victims of violent crimes or gun violence," said Kristie Snedeker, DPT, Shock Trauma's Vice President. "We connect those patients to the care that they need, whether it be the medical care, social services care or legal assistance to be able to help them on their journey to recovery and do our part in breaking the cycle of violence."

About 18 percent of patients admitted to Shock Trauma are victims of violent crime.

Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals from Shock Trauma and the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute will be honored along with members of the Baltimore County Fire Department, 911 centers in Baltimore and Washington counties, EMS in Washington and Frederick counties, and the Maryland State Police Aviation Command.

"I Was Thankful I Am Alive"

Spitnale sustained massive blood loss and suffered a fractured pelvis, ruptured diaphragm, mangled right leg and a spinal cord injury after he was thrown 80 feet in a motorcycle crash at Md. Rte. 67 and Garretts Mill Road in Knoxville in June 2021. He was on the way to the grocery store when a car struck him head on. His injuries were so severe that a Washington County EMS supervisor arranged for his wife to be brought to the scene before he was airlifted to Shock Trauma. "I wanted her to have that opportunity to at least say goodbye," said Keli Smith, Washington County EMS supervisor.

David T. Efron, MD, the Chief of Trauma and Shock Trauma's Medical Director, said that when Spitnale arrived, he was very pale and in deep shock with an irregular heart beat and rapid breathing. The team quickly assessed his injuries and started a massive blood transfusion protocol.

"We elected to place a balloon into his aorta to actually control the potential blood loss and give us an opportunity to make plans for the operating room," said Dr. Efron, who is the Thomas M. Scalea, Distinguished Professor of Trauma at UMSOM. Surgeons repaired Spitnale's fractured pelvis and torn diaphragm, which had caused organs to shift, creating enormous pressure on his heart. Spitnale' devastating spinal injury left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Doctors worked to save his mangled leg, but it soon proved to be a liability, and they were forced to amputate it at the knee. "It was becoming clear that leg was actually starting to be his enemy," said Marcus F. Sciadini, MD, an orthopaedic trauma surgeon and a professor of trauma at UMSOM. "Then you have to make the decision – you know it's life vs. limb."

A military veteran who served in the U.S. Special Forces and was awarded a Bronze Star, Spitnale recalled, "Once I really realized what had happened, I was not devastated. I was thankful that I am alive."

He spent 31 days at Shock Trauma, enduring more than 17 procedures, before being transferred to UM Rehab & Ortho, where he pushed through several weeks of physical therapy. Staff members described him as mentally strong, tough and determined to recover from his injuries despite extreme pain.

Spitnale continues to receive physical therapy at his home and has been able to take some steps with assistance. "The progress that he has made is tremendous," his wife, Laura, said. "We are really hoping, and I really believe, that there is more walking to be had; there's more progress to be made."

For his part, Spitnale said, "I thank God every day that I wake up, blessed to have landed on the roof of that hospital on that day in June. Truly."

"Recovery Has Been Full of Miracles"

Lightman, a retired clinical social worker who has been active in her synagogue and other Jewish organizations in the Baltimore area, also received multiple traumatic injuries, including a fractured spine, ribs and pelvis; collapsed lungs; and bleeding in her brain, lungs and pelvis after being struck by a car in June 2022. Witnesses said she was thrown onto the hood and roof of the car and landed on the street in the middle of the intersection at Greenspring and Smith avenues in Pikesville. The driver fled the scene.

"Ms. Lightman got here terribly injured, in profound hemorrhagic shock with injuries to her chest, to her pelvis, to her spine and losing blood from many, many areas," Dr. Scalea said.

She received blood transfusions, and doctors discovered that in addition to her many injuries, she also had a problem with a heart valve. "She was not doing very well. Her heart really wasn't working at all, and her lungs weren't working, and that's a bad combination," the physician-in-chief recounted.

As a last resort, Lightman was placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which pumps and oxygenates a patient's blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest. "I had some complicated conversations with her family because it was not clear to me that we were going to get her through this," Dr. Scalea said.

Lightman spent a month at Shock Trauma, where she also underwent open-heart surgery to replace her faulty heart valve. Jason S. Adams, DPT, a physical therapist, said she made "tremendous progress" before being discharged to her home to continue home and outpatient therapy.

"Age is always a factor in deconditioning and recovery through a critical illness like this," Dr. Adams said. "Luckily, Ellen is somebody who is extremely active. She was always pushing to do more and wanted to just going, keep pushing, to keep getting back to her normal. You knew that she was going to kick this thing in the butt."

Lightman said that surviving such devastating injuries has caused her to "appreciate the simplest things."

"Life is great, and I am happy," she said. "I would not be here had it not been first for the ambulance {crew} and the paramedics who helped me and then everybody at Shock Trauma led by Dr. Scalea. It's an extraordinary experience to be here to laud their efforts worldwide."

Her husband, Noah Lightman, MD, said, "Her recovery has been full of miracles, one of which that day they took her to Shock Trauma. They did not take her to the nearest hospital. And that's what we owe her life to."

Dr. Scalea noted that Maryland's trauma/EMS system is unparalleled and doesn't exist anywhere else in the United States. "It is the organization of the system, plus the beautiful, dedicated resource that is the Shock Trauma Center that allows people like this to live," he said. "The truth of the matter is that in many places, neither of them would have lived."

About the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center

The R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, University of Maryland was the first fully integrated trauma center in the world and remains at the epicenter for trauma research, patient care and teaching, both nationally and internationally today. Shock Trauma is where the "golden hour" concept of trauma was born and where many lifesaving practices in modern trauma medicine were pioneered. Shock Trauma is also at the heart of the Maryland's unparalleled Emergency Medical Service System. Learn more about Shock Trauma.

About the University of Maryland Medical Center

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) is comprised of two hospital campuses in Baltimore: the 800-bed flagship institution of the 11-hospital University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and the 200-bed UMMC Midtown Campus. Both campuses are academic medical centers for training physicians and health professionals and for pursuing research and innovation to improve health. UMMC's downtown campus is a national and regional referral center for trauma, cancer care, neurosciences, advanced cardiovascular care, and women's and children's health, and has one of the largest solid organ transplant programs in the country. All physicians on staff at the downtown campus are clinical faculty physicians of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The UMMC Midtown Campus medical staff is predominately faculty physicians specializing in a wide spectrum of medical and surgical subspecialties, primary care for adults and children and behavioral health. UMMC Midtown has been a teaching hospital for 140 years and is located one mile away from the downtown campus. For more information, visit

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 46 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs, and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished two-time winner of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research. With an operating budget of more than $1.2 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically based care for nearly 2 million patients each year. The School of Medicine has nearly $600 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 students, trainees, residents, and fellows. The combined School of Medicine and Medical System ("University of Maryland Medicine") has an annual budget of over $6 billion and an economic impact of nearly $20 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity (according to the Association of American Medical Colleges profile) is an innovator in translational medicine, with 606 active patents and 52 start-up companies. In the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of the Best Medical Schools, published in 2023, the UM School of Medicine is ranked #10 among the 92 public medical schools in the U.S., and in the top 16 percent (#32) of all 192 public and private U.S. medical schools. The School of Medicine works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit

About the University of Maryland Medical System

The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) is an academic, private health system, focused on delivering compassionate, high-quality care and putting discovery and innovation into practice at the bedside. Partnering with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and University of Maryland, Baltimore, who educate the state's future health care professionals. UMMS is an integrated network of care, delivering 25 percent of all hospital care in urban, suburban and rural communities across the state of Maryland. UMMS puts academic medicine within reach through primary and specialty care delivered at 11 hospitals, including the flagship University of Maryland Medical Center, the System's anchor institution in downtown Baltimore, as well as through a network of University of Maryland Urgent Care centers and more than 150 other locations in 13 counties. For more information, visit