Getting by with a Little Help from Good Friends
When Justin Ellis got up on the morning of October 10, 2016 to report for work as a motor officer with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit P.D., he could not have imagined the way his day – indeed, his life – would turn out before the day was over. Just before the end of his shift, he'd been called into a search for an aggravated robbery suspect, who had stabbed a victim at the Hatcher station in south Dallas and had subsequently fled the scene. Justin was called to sweep the nearby Lawnview station.
When his search came up empty, he left the station to return to the scene of the crime. As he proceeded northbound to Hatcher, a truck heading in the opposite direction failed to notice Justin's motorcycle and turned directly into his lane, sending him careening off his bike, across the truck's hood and roof, and onto the pavement 20 feet away from the initial impact. A nearby citizen, seeing that Justin was still conscious, retrieved the officer's radio, and Justin called for help. Within 13 seconds, the ambulance arrived, racing Justin the nearest emergency room where he had already gone into shock from internal hemorrhaging. From there, Justin's recollection of the story goes dark.
Shortly after 8:30 p.m., Justin's wife, Rachel, got the call that her husband was down. Leaving their two children, Charles (5) and Miranda (2), with grandparents, Rachel proceeded directly to meet her husband. At 5 a.m. the next morning, TMPA North Texas representative, Clint McNear, showed up and remained a steady support.
The doctors began feeding reports to Rachel. The situation had become tense. Justin had an "open book" pelvis fracture, pulling his pelvis away from his spine, along with internal bleeding caused from a break in his femoral artery. Doctors had to open his abdomen to take the pressure off his organs; within the first 24 hours, 24 units of blood were pumped into him to keep him alive.
By day three, he was put on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, to filter, clean and recirculate his blood as orthopedic surgeons worked to repair the fracture.
"No one had ever been on an ECMO machine during an orthopedic surgery before this," Justin relates. "Rachel had to decide for me whether to run the risk."
She did, and the operation worked. For the next 10 days, Justin remained on the machine and was moved to ICU once he stabilized.