Pediatric Services

Saving young lives – 2 kids at a time

Teenage siblings Chris and Becca Piancino love to hang out together and try to beat each other at basketball. However, their daily games of H-O-R-S-E came to an abrupt end after the two were in a devastating rollover accident on Interstate 17.

Chris was driving the vehicle when it was clipped by a passing car, causing it to roll several times. The kids’ parents were driving ahead of them and saw the accident happen. 

Fortunately, Flagstaff Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Center and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit were just minutes away and ready to provide the intense level of care both of them required.  

“It truly was like watching a film in slow motion; there was nothing we could do,” said Stephanie Piancino, Chris and Becca’s mom. “It was the worst day of our lives.”

Guardian Medical Transport, Highlands Fire District and Flagstaff Fire Department responded to the scene. Paramedics provided lifesaving care, which continued as the two young patients were transported to Flagstaff Medical Center by Guardian.

After arriving at the hospital, Becca was alert with only minor injuries. But Chris’ injuries were more serious. He had broken vertebrae in his back and neck, a concussion, a broken sternum and wrist, and collapsed lungs. His condition demanded the expertise of Flagstaff’s specially trained pediatric physicians and staff.

While in intensive care, Chris needed a ventilator to help him breathe. He was also placed in a drug-induced coma to give his body the best chance to heal. Nurses and respiratory therapists were continually by his side, while Pediatric Intensivist Susan Haefner, M.D., monitored his delicate condition and coordinated his care.

“We owe our son’s life to the paramedics, Dr. Haefner, and to the amazing nurses and therapists at Flagstaff Medical Center,” said Piancino. “The care our kids received was phenomenal. Dr. Haefner was blatantly honest with us about the severity of Chris’ condition. She also told us she would be with us every step of the way – and she was.”

Three days after the accident, Chris had improved enough that his care team allowed him to wake up and he was taken off the ventilator. On day five, he was moved out of the unit. On day six, he went home. Less than three weeks after the accident, he joined Becca back at Coconino High School.