Max Kramer was asleep during an overnight Boy Scout camp out in June 2017 when an ash tree crashed through his tent, falling on top of him. Rushed to Cincinnati Children’s, Max was treated for multiple injuries. Today he is fully recovered.
Beth Kramer knew something was wrong when her phone rang at 2:30 am. She was told her son, Max, had been injured while camping in rural Kentucky and was being transported for emergency care.
As she would learn, a tree had fallen diagonally across Max’s body, landing on his right side pelvis, abdomen and chest − about where a seat belt would go.
As a trauma nurse for the University of Cincinnati, Beth is well acquainted with trauma injuries.
“Knowing what I do for a living, I knew there was a good chance that by the time I got there he might not be alive,” she said.
But she also knew about Cincinnati Children’s designation as a Level 1 Trauma Center and knew that’s where Max needed to go.
“I knew it was very bad and very critical. And I remember the first thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘I want him to go to Cincinnati Children’s. Don’t go anywhere else,’ ” said Beth.
Emergency air lift was not available so Max was transported 40 miles via ambulance from the campsite in rural Boone County to Cincinnati. Beth and her husband, Mike, a firefighter, met him at Cincinnati Children’s.
“Cincinnati Children’s was the only place I wanted him to go,” said Beth. “I know what it takes to be a Level 1 Trauma Center. It takes the absolute best teamwork and the best medical care.”
Richard A. Falcone Jr., MD, MPH, director of Trauma Services, reiterates the importance of a team effort for both rare and commonplace injuries.
“Our team of providers – including nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics, ER physicians, surgeons, intensivists, operating room staff, radiology and lab staff – all work collaboratively to ensure the best outcomes following an injury like Max’s,” said Falcone
“We admit nearly 2,000 injured children every year with injuries ranging from unusual events such as Max’s, to the more common falls, bike accidents, pedestrians struck, and motor vehicle collisions.”
Thinking back on the day of the accident, Beth recalls all the details leading up to it and how one change here or there could’ve resulted in a different outcome.
For one, Max wasn’t supposed to sleep in the tent where the tree crashed. He switched at the last minute with another camper who has hemophilia, a rare disorder in which blood doesn't clot normally.
“If the tree had fallen on him, I’m not sure he would’ve made it,” said Beth.
In a fortunate coincidence, the Boy Scouts had completed their medical training the night before. This helped them all work well together to get Max the help he needed, despite the remote location.
“They knew what to do and they were calm,” said Beth, adding she felt the same calmness when she entered the trauma bay at Cincinnati Children’s to see Max.
The Emergency Room can be a hectic place with staff members coming and going, but Beth was thankful she was able to be next to her son.
“They led me right next to Max. I felt like it was a calm environment. The team worked really well together,” said Beth. “Them allowing me to be part of the Emergency Room experience helped me and helped my son. It helped me to be calm and it helped my son to be calm. And I felt like just being there, in my son’s presence, overall helped us get through the critical moments.”
“It was a lot to comprehend as to what just happened and what was going on. They kept asking me questions – How do you feel? What did you do today? Where do your parents work?” said Max, recalling the Emergency Room experience.
“But I felt calm. I felt confident when my mom and dad came in.”
During his recovery, Max was forced to suspend sports activities for five months. His injuries included multiple rib fractures, a pulmonary contusion and a grade 4 laceration of the spleen.
He returned to the football field during his freshman year and is now starting on the JV offensive line during his sophomore year at Badin High School in Hamilton, Ohio, near their home in Ross Township.
“It was hard I couldn’t play football. But I knew I would make a full recovery and would be back playing,” said Max.
In addition to the gridiron, Max returned to the great outdoors and the Boy Scouts. He attended the leadership camp the next year and now needs to complete one final community project – a communion / prayer walk for the family’s church – before he can earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
“I have to get (Eagle Scout rank) before my 18th birthday,” said Max, 15. “But I hope to get it soon. I’m really close.”
Max, then 13, arrives for Boy Scout Leadership camp.
Max, 15, plays offensive line for the Badin High School football team.