Published on November 01, 2016

'Cowboy' grateful for life-saving trauma care at Gundersen Tri-County

Tri-County and Arcadia ambulance

Jon Paulson (left) and Mike Foster, CCEMTP, care for patients each day as paramedics for Tri-County Ambulance and Arcadia Ambulance.

Rob Steagall is a man's man, a self described "tough cowboy," who's quick to his feet after being knocked down.

The Mondovi resident used to ride bulls for fun, and still breaks wild horses for a local veterinarian. When Rob needs to escape, he hits the open road on his motorcycle.

"I've been on a motorcycle since I was 16-years-old," Rob says. "There's nothing like the freedom I get on my bike."

Rob was celebrating this freedom during a recent motorcycle ride with dozens of other riders to honor military veterans when he was knocked down once more.

"My front wheel slid on some gravel in the road, and I had to put the bike down in a ditch," Rob says.

Several riders took Rob from the accident scene to Blair, Wis., where an ambulance was called, despite tough guy Rob's objections.

"He had minor road rash, no pain…very little sign of anything wrong," says Jon Paulson, a Gundersen Tri-County Hospital and Clinics paramedic who was first on the scene. "After some pressure from his buddies, Rob finally agreed to ride with us to the Hospital in Whitehall to get checked out."

Lucas Hammell, DO, Gundersen Tri-County Hospital and Clinics

Lucas Hammell, DO, Gundersen Health System Family Medicine and Gundersen Tri-County Emergency Services, was ready to care for Rob.

"We did a complete exam, and Rob did not appear to be badly injured," Dr. Hammell says. "When he stood up to give a urine sample, however, Rob's blood pressure crashed."

After quickly stabilizing Rob, Dr. Hammell immediately called for a CT scan. It showed significant damage to the spleen, which could cause internal bleeding and death.

Gundersen MedLink AIR flew to Gundersen Tri-County to transport Rob back to La Crosse for more intensive care. Thanks to the initial treatment by Dr. Hammell and others, Rob's care and recovery was seamless.

"Many injuries, like Rob's, can deteriorate quickly," Dr. Hammell says. "Hospitals like Gundersen Tri-County are a lifeline for many people."

"Some patients in the Whitehall area are a half-hour or more away from emergency care," Jon says. "We care for patients and help them reach that higher level of care."

"To be alive to tell the story….shoot, I'm grateful. If it hadn't been for Dr. Hammell and others, I wouldn't be here today," Rob admits. "I'm tearing up just telling the story."

An honest admission from a tough, yet thankful cowboy.