It took first responders 30 minutes after Neil Myers rode his bike through the windshield of a truck to get him to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
A triathlete, Mr. Meyers was training for his last race of the year when he had his accident coming down Gibraltar Road on Aug. 4, 2018. He had been training all day, and was enjoying a fun Saturday afternoon ride back down when he came around a blind turn and hit a truck while going 35 miles per hour.
“You know those little things on your backbone, the little wings that are on your vertebrae? I ripped off about six of those. I broke my right leg. I broke both wrists. Broke seven ribs. I broke my nose twice. I had cuts everywhere; ended up losing a ton of blood. I had a collapsed lung, bruised heart, a concussion, and blood in the brain,” Mr. Myers told the News-Press.
First responders quickly got Mr. Myers to Cottage Hospital, where a team of about 70 worked for five hours and saved his life. The rapid response and care was a testament to Cottage’s abilities as a newly designated Trauma 1 center.
“Trauma 1 is the ultimate for someone in my situation,” said Mr. Myers.
“There’s a whole set of things you have to do to be able to do that, and the only other trauma centers near me would have been UCLA or San Jose. I had lost so much blood I don’t think I would have made either place.”
Now fully recovered and back to competing in triathlons, Mr. Myers shared his story with the News-Press at the annual Cottage Hospital Tiara Ball. It was his second time attending, after he was invited last year as the Ball’s special guest whose story exemplified what Cottage’s mission is all about.
Mr. Myers was one of hundreds of guests who celebrated at the Tiara Ball 2020 on February 29.
The Tiara Ball is Cottage Health’s yearly bash at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara where supporters don their best formal attire to raise money for Cottage’s emergency, trauma and critical care services.
“When I was in the hospital, and especially at Cottage Rehab, I saw a lot of people that were just farm workers. They had nothing. They had no insurance, they had no money, and I wasn’t getting any different care than they were. How does that happen? These people in here,” said Mr. Myers as he gestured toward the packed ballroom.
Since 2005, the Tiara Ball has been an opportunity to bring all community members who are aligned with and supporters of Cottage together to champion some of the departments that provide critical care services for the county, and honor the thousands of doctors, nurses, and staff that make Cottage Health one of the top healthcare systems in the country.
“It’s a great night. It’s a great opportunity to increase the awareness of what we do at Cottage and what we’re doing moving forward. It also allows us to be together and celebrate that in a fun environment and raise money for a good program,” said Dr. Brett Wilson, Chair of the Emergency Department at Cottage Hospital
“It makes a significant impact. I think also the benefit is it just creates the awareness of what we do at the hospital. Unless you’ve been in a tragic event, you don’t really, hopefully, understand that. That we’re open 24-7, 365.”
At the Ball, President and CEO of Cottage Health Ron Werft thanked supporters for their generous contributions and shared some of the improvements they have enabled. Recently completed projects include a 15-year effort to rebuild Cottage Hospital and the opening of the Compton Pavilion and the Cottage Children’s Medical Center.
“This $820M project was completed on time and on budget, and we are grateful to so many of you here tonight for helping make that possible,” said Mr. Werft.
Mr. Werft also shared Cottage’s designs for the future, such as Direct to consumer virtual care, an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, and an Advanced Simulation Training Center.
Proceeds from the gala also went towards a redesign and remodel of Cottage’s Emergency Department that will separate the workflow for those with serious medical emergencies from those with lower acuity.
“Importantly, your support will enable us to expand an ED designed to treat 25,000 patients annually to one that will treat more than 70,000 patients per year. We look forward to opening this new and complete emergency department by the end of next year,” Mr. Werft told the audience.
The Bollag family, who has been supporting Cottage for the past 25 years, were honored as the ball’s inaugural Presenting Sponsors. Tracy Bollag told the News-Press their family, originally from New York, has been enthralled with the work Cottage has done to improve their facilities.
“We couldn’t believe, after they’ve done the fundraising, what they’ve done,” said Ms. Bollag. “It’s beautiful. It’s unreal! And the technology they have…For what I call a sleepy town, I think we have the most outrageous hospital. I think we’re so blessed and so lucky!”
There are many members of the community dedicated to keeping Cottage on the cutting edge of healthcare services, and enough turned out Saturday night that the ball was sold out.
“People want an opportunity to show their appreciation,” said Dr. Wilson. “Santa Barbara’s an amazing community and they stand behind programs that they see have value.”