Inside Trauma Center Care: Accident in an Apple Orchard


This is the second in a series of three trauma patient stories from surgeons at the Center for Oral Surgery & Dental Implants. They’re among 13 oral surgeons who take turns on call at a Level I trauma center that draws cases from all over West Michigan.

“We come in and cover all facial trauma services,” says Roseanna Noordhoek, DDS, FACS, a surgeon at Center for Oral Surgery & Dental Implants. “We also handle any other pathology or infections for patients admitted to the hospital for other medical reasons.” In addition, the oral surgeons advocate for their emergency patients, helping to assure a smooth transition back to their regular dentist if they have one—or find one if they don’t.

A terrifying accident 

In June 2019, Timothy Emmons, 53, a corporate pilot living in Sparta, was driving an ATV in his apple orchard when he collided with a wire trellis tied to an apple tree. Summaries of his injury include a terrifying word: He was, in effect, partially decapitated.

Emmons was driven to the hospital by his girlfriend—she didn’t wait for an ambulance—and taken straight to the O.R. After doctors gave him a tracheostomy and closed his neck wound, Dr. Noordhoek removed fragments of his broken right mandible to prevent infection. But there were so many small fragments that would have lost blood supply if plates and screws were used that she had to wire Emmons’s jaw shut with arch-bars for six weeks while he took nutrition through a feeding tube in his nose. That, Dr. Noordhoek explains, is “our way of putting a cast on.”

“It was uncomfortable having my jaw wired shut,” says Emmons. “But it healed back, no problem.”

Because of  the fracture, Dr. Noordhoek eventually removed tooth #31 and replaced it with an implant. Today Emmons is grateful that he didn’t lose any taste or smell and can bite normally. There’s some loss of sensation in the skin over part of his jaw, he says, but “most of the time I don’t even notice that.”

Emmons is enthusiastic about the “fantastic job” done by Dr. Noordhoek. “She’s a saint!” he declares.