The common trait shared by traumatic injury survivors


This is your best chance of surviving a traumatic injury according to a trauma surgeon who has seen it all in the last 20 years.

Professor Martin Wullschleger has seen just about every traumatic injury possible.

The trauma services director at the Gold Coast University Hospital has been a surgeon for the past 20 years.

He says the bulk of people who come through the hospital doors are those involved in vehicle accidents and the elderly.

“We see a fair number of 60, 70 and older patients who fall from roofs, out of trees, from ladders,” he explains.

But of the patients he deals with who recover and go on to rebuild their life there’s one common trait among them all – their attitude and their family support network.

Professor Martin Wullschleger
Professor Martin Wullschleger, right, with a former patient, centre. Photo: Insight

“Initially we do surgery we do lifesaving stuff … but once they are on the ward then we have to push them to do things to get back on track,” he says.

“That process is not comfortable … it’s pain, it could be loss of a limb, it’s hard to cope for sure but if a patient can take that on and accept that and work through it, and with us, even if we push hard sometimes, they leave the hospital much quicker.”

Despite being surrounded by a dedicated team of professionals Prof. Wullschleger says there are some patients and families who try to dictate the recovery process rather than listening to the advice of the health workers.

“That doesn’t really help them because then we can’t work together to get the patient out of hospital and in recovery as quickly as possible.”

“Stupid people get themselves into trouble, and to be honest there are a lot of near misses … don’t be silly.”

Prof. Wullschleger he has seen many patients come back from near death experiences go on to lead a fulfilling life.

“The positive mindset and the focus on getting out of the hospital as soon as possible and getting stronger that makes a huge difference,” he says.

Prof. Wullschleger recalls a 37-year-old plasterer who fell seven stories from a construction site in July 2017 as a patient that embraced a positive mindset.

He suffered multiple fractures to his legs and ribs and had extensive internal bleeding. He was rushed to the operating theatre where Prof. Wullschleger and his team operated for seven hours.

Overall he had more than 20 surgeries and spent more than 100 days in the intensive care unit. He was discharged earlier this year. 

“About a month ago we were out for dinner with his wife, my wife and his daughters, he’s doing really well.”

And of working on catastrophic injuries, some resulting in death, Prof. Wullschleger has some advice.

“Enjoy the moment, enjoy what you’ve got, work hard for sure but enjoy it and put it in a bigger perspective and have a purpose in life for what you do.”

But he warns that people need to use their common sense to prevent clearly avoidable incidents.

“Stupid people get themselves into trouble, and to be honest there are a lot of near misses … don’t be silly.”

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