On March 17, a local farmer fell victim to a heavy equipment accident. When he arrived at Yale-New Haven hospital with four firefighters, two police officers and three ambulance workers, his arm was still caught in the machine. As medical personnel began to treat the patient, whose arm was ultimately amputated, one of the doctors shouted, “We get a case like this once in a hundred years. Where’s the Learning Channel?”
At first glance, it might seem like the doctor was just trying to be funny. But he had reason to expect that documentary filmmakers from the cable network would show up to film this case, as Yale-New Haven hospital had been selected to be the site of the documentary show Trauma: Life in the ER. Unfortunately, the crew was not scheduled to arrive for another two days.
Beginning on March 19, a crew of four filmmakers and producers spent every hour of one month filming every event in the emergency trauma center at Yale-New Haven, from the initial calls from ambulance companies to the discharge of patients. The cases they filmed became the basis for the episode “Keeping the Faith,” which will air on Monday, Oct 15 at 8 p.m. The episode features commentary from the doctors on the cases, as well as insights into their personal lives.
According to hospital spokesman Mark D’Antonio, the producers of Trauma, who until now had never filmed in the Northeast, selected Yale-New Haven because of its diverse caseload.
“They chose us based on the fact that we are the only Level I trauma [center] in the state for adults and kids,” D’Antonio said.
The Level I designation, the highest for a trauma center, is based on the number of patients the hospital staff treats, and the amount and quality of the medical equipment available.
D’Antonio also said the producers expressed interest in Yale-New Haven because of the high profile of the Yale name.
The doctors and staff at Yale-New Haven enjoyed working with the TLC producers.
“We were very sorry to see them go,” D’Antonio said.
Only two percent of the doctors did not want to participate in the program and over 80 percent of adult patients gave their consent to have their cases on the show, although the rate of consent was slightly lower for parents of injured children. D’Antonio said that the filmmakers asked for consent only after they were no longer in an emergency situation.
“It’s a no-pressure kind of situation for the patients,” D’Antonio said.
He said that the members of the camera crew, who he described as “very professional” used small digital cameras and wore scrubs to fit in at the hospital. They fit in so well that they even attended one doctor’s wedding. D’Antonio said the camaraderie between the filmmakers and the doctors allowed TLC to demonstrate in the show that the doctors are human beings and have lives outside the hospital.
“They really got to know the doctors as people,” he said.
D’Antonio, who has already seen the episode, said that he likes the portrayal of the hospital.
“They just want to make you look good,” he said. “And they did.”