MANSFIELD – In 2019, Alesia Litteral came close to losing her life after a violent assault from her late husband. Today, she’s grateful to the people who worked around the clock to save her life.
Litteral shows a special appreciation to general surgeon Dr. Daniel Detrich at OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital. With an excellent trauma unit to support him and work alongside him, Detrich contributed to Litteral’s survival.
Although Litteral doesn’t remember much from that day, her closest friends and family have given their accounts.
“(Detrich) told my sister he would do what he could, but he just thought he was looking at a corpse,” Litteral recalled.
Upon arrival at Mansfield Hospital, Litteral needed 20 units of blood in 20 minutes. She was stabbed with a knife and screwdriver on various parts of her body and shot several times before being left for dead inside her home. Afterward, her husband, Ian, took his own life in their bedroom.
Detrich assessed Litteral’s injuries and, along with the trauma team, immediately determined that she needed to head to the operating room.
“There is a protocolized approach to every patient that shows up with traumatic injury,” Detrich said. “And it's a simultaneous stop the bleeding, figure out the injuries, figure out how to achieve definitive management all while resuscitating those patients.”
Litteral stayed in the hospital for 29 days, the first couple under a coma. Her lungs collapsed, she had 80 percent liver damage, her right kidney stopped functioning and she also had a broken rib and finger.
Since his years in medical school, Detrich’s seen plenty of domestic violence cases, and unfortunately, Litteral’s case was far from the worst.
Detrich recently accomplished 30 years as a general surgeon at Mansfield Hospital. While grateful for being recognized for his efforts in Litteral’s case, he extends that to the entire team he worked with that day. Without the EMTs, nurses, the two other doctors he worked with and the ICU team, Litteral could not have survived due to the extent of her injuries.
“With this teamwork approach we were able to make her survive,” Detrich said. “What I consider the worst of the worst are the ones that don't even get to me, let alone those that get to us and there's nothing we can do. And I, unfortunately, have seen that too often.”
Mansfield Hospital is a Level II Trauma Center certified by the American College of Surgeons. When Litteral came in, an entire team of 10 to 14 people were there and involved in her care. Someone establishes an airway, another starts an IV, another begins an assessment of injuries, another starts imaging and another starts meds.
Each individual working around the bedside of a trauma has a specific job. It can include people from surgery, imaging, lab, pharmacy, blood bank, respiratory, nursing, social workers, clergy/pastoral care, etc. It really is a giant, collective machine that goes into saving lives like Litteral’s.
Post-surgery and her comatose state, Litteral was given the choice of intensive therapy or a nursing home. Litteral chose to fight.
“I loved my husband when I married him, but he had become somebody I didn't know because of the alcohol,” Litteral said. “And as soon as I found out that I was okay—I was safe—it's like a weight lifted off of me and then I was like, 'There's no way I'm checking out.’”
One day, while doing intensive therapy and working on her coordination, Litteral saw Detrich again for the first time. She didn’t see his face the day of the incident since she was unconscious, however she knew him from a past gallbladder surgery he performed on her.
“I think he was very shocked to see me up, doing what I was doing,” Litteral said, recalling the look of surprise she saw on Detrich’s face when he realized who she was. Detrich remembered that moment as well.
“I took her to surgery, worked on her, and the next day another team took over, and I didn't lay eyes on her for a while...,” Detrich said. “So, that was part of it. Just the surprise that (she looked well)... Certainly she's fighting through some issues, but not some of the things that she may well have ended up with.”
Today, Litteral still suffers from PTSD, and the trauma her husband inflicted on her shows visibly from the many scars she has on her body. However, she’s mentally in a better place than she was before. She’s given church testimonials, spoken on podcasts and is working on getting a book deal. She’s also currently raising money to fix up her house and sell it in May.
“I'm very, very thankful that (Detrich’s) who they called,” Litteral said. “And, you know... how do you thank somebody for saving your life?”
“I don't know what else to say about Dr. Detrich, I just think he's just so amazing, I just want to hug him,” she said, laughing. “(He’s) the most wonderful person in the whole wide world. And, you know, he's just a blessing to me. Just a wonderful blessing and I just can't thank him enough.”
When Detrich looks back on his previous years as a surgeon, he remembers thinking to himself that everything in life can be made better. To be able to look back over the past three decades that he’s been in general surgery shows him how far hospitals have come and how much better they’re doing with their commitment to being better each day. He calls the commitment Mansfield Hospital makes to the community a very gratifying feeling.
“I consider what I do to be a privilege, and when someone survives something so harrowing, it just makes me feel good,” Detrich said. “And I feel good about where I work, and what we as a team have to offer to this community.”