Jessica and Colin Barclay with two Denver Health nurses

Grateful Patient Thanks Trauma Team for Saving Her Life

February 10, 2022

The morning of Sept. 20, 2021, started out like any other Monday. Jessica Barclay was standing in her co-working office, chatting with the receptionist while she poured her coffee. Suddenly, with no forewarning, she fainted.

“I fell backwards like a board, hitting my head on the polished concrete floor,” said Barclay, a healthy, active 35-year-old business owner and mother of two boys, ages 4 and 6.

Jessica Barclay at Denver Health after brain surgery
Photo courtesy Jessica Barclay

The point of impact was a thin bone on the side of her head, causing Barclay to shatter her skull and sever an artery in her brain—also known as an epidural hematoma. Denver Health Neurosurgeon Dr. Kathy Beauchamp said the injury is life-threatening and typically results in permanent brain damage—or, if a patient isn’t lucky enough to receive emergent care within minutes—death.

In Barclay’s case, while the fall and resulting injury were unlucky, everything that happened thereafter was anything but. The receptionist called 911; Denver Health Paramedic Krista Riemer responded and transported Barclay to the Denver Health Medical Center emergency department. That’s where Registered Nurse Erin McMahon recognized that Barclay was suffering from more than just some concussion-related dizziness. She escalated Barclay’s case, the attending physician Dr. Jen Whitfield ordered a CT scan, and the team saw that Barclay had an active bleed inside her brain. They called up to neurosurgery, where Barclay was put under anesthesia and taken into emergency brain surgery within minutes.

On Feb. 3, 2022, Jessica Barclay and her husband, Colin Barclay, returned to Denver Health to reunite with and thank the trauma team—including paramedics, nurses, doctors, surgeons and more—whose astute thinking and quick actions not only saved Jessica’s life, but allowed her to make a full recovery with no damage to her brain. She is back to working full time, reading bedtime stories to her sons and running six miles each day.

“Thank you for the amazing work you do every single day,” Jessica said to her medical providers at the reunion. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you.”

Colin and Jessica Barclay with their two sons
Photo courtesy Jessica Barclay

CBS4 Denver captured the emotional and celebratory event.

“What our patients do for us is more than what we do for them,” Beauchamp remarked.

McMahon added, “Denver Health’s mission to provide excellent care for anyone who needs it, no matter who they are or their circumstances, is why I work here. Moments like this—getting to see the positive outcome—are what make it worth it.”

The Barclays’ gratitude for Jessica’s care and survival inspired members of her family to give a generous gift to the Denver Health Foundation and moved Colin to join the Foundation’s Board of Directors to help support the programs, services and fundraising efforts for the Denver Health and Hospital Authority.

“I’m just so grateful that because of all of you, I have my wife and my sons have their mom,” Colin Barclay said.

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