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Sharp Health News

Learning to live again after surviving a car accident

Aug. 26, 2021

Lili Mossman and her mother, Suraya Guariglia

Lili Mossman (right) thanks her care team and her mom — Suraya Guariglia (left), a Sharp employee — for providing her with support during her recovery from a car accident.

Lili Mossman was only 17 years old when she nearly lost her life.

While in St. Louis, Missouri, she was a passenger in a car that went too fast around a curve and swerved off the road. As the vehicle flipped into a field, the force ejected Lili out of the car.

Nearly 2,000 miles away in San Diego, Lili’s mom, Saraya Guariglia, received a phone call from a hospital in St. Louis. The doctor on the other end of the line wasn’t sure Lili would survive the next 24 hours.

The next day was touch and go, but Lili’s fighting spirit prevailed. She spent nearly three months at the hospital with a serious pelvic fracture, a head injury, and a broken back and shoulder. Once she was stable, Lili was transferred to Sharp Memorial Hospital.

Her mother, a surgical technologist at Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion, was thankful that Lili could receive care close to home.

“The hospital in St. Louis was great, but I noticed big differences,” says Saraya. “Sharp Memorial Hospital is so healing and we have far more advanced medical equipment, procedures and staff.”

In St. Louis, Lili underwent emergency surgery to stabilize her pelvis with two screws and a plate. At Sharp Memorial Hospital, she received multiple wound VAC (vacuum-assisted closure) treatments, which reduce swelling, fight bacteria and encourage healing by connecting a wound dressing to a portable pump that removes air pressure.

Once she healed enough, Dr. Anthony Sanzone, a surgeon affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group and Sharp Memorial Hospital, removed the screws and plate on her pelvis, and sheared down bone growing near the area.

Then, Dr. James Chao, a reconstructive surgeon affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group and Sharp Memorial Hospital, performed several skin grafts on Lili to cover her wounds.

“A combination of her care teams, nurses on the trauma unit, along with Lili’s bravery during the procedures, helped her to recover,” says Dr. Chao. “She had very serious life-threatening injuries, but she remained positive.”

Lili was at Sharp Memorial for nearly three months. During her stay, she celebrated a momentous occasion — turning 18 years old. The nursing staff on the 4 West trauma unit celebrated her birthday and rejoiced as she gradually sat upright and walked again. Lili worked with several physical therapists at Sharp Memorial and Sharp Allison deRose Rehabilitation Center during the process. She started with minor arm and leg range of motion exercises and progressed to using a tilt table, along with other equipment.

“Tilt tables allow patients to slowly begin bearing weight again on their legs,” says Zane Brandt, one of the physical therapists at Sharp Memorial who helped Lili. “She was eventually able to move by herself in and out of a bed and a chair, later stand and take her first steps in many months using a walker.”

During her recovery, Lili found solace by making art through Sharp’s Arts for Healing program and by joining Sharp Memorial’s Trauma Survivors Network. She continues to heal and faces future operations such as reconstructive surgery on her back. Yet, she feels energized and full of gratitude.

“I am beyond grateful for the care I received,” Lili says. “Although I will never be the same, I am so thankful to be where I am at today. I can go for a walk now, spend time with loved ones and just feel comfortable again.”

Lili credits numerous employees at Sharp, from physical therapy aides to nurses and physicians, for their care and support, and a special Sharp employee — her own mom.

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