Trauma and Tattoos
Tampa Bay area man survives devastating motorcycle wreck, resumes dream career
By Karin Lillis
The tattoo of the University of Florida mascot on Kevin Moore’s wrist is — on first glance — a tribute to his favorite college football team. But for Moore, the meaning is deeper.
His tattoo honors the care team at UF Health and aboard the ShandsCair helicopter that saved his life after a devastating motorcycle accident in 2013. Moore is an avid motorcyclist and UF supporter. His Suzuki GSX-R sport bike bore the orange and blue of the University of Florida, with the Gators mascot airbrushed on the gas tank. His helmet was “Gator orange.”
Moore was five months into training for a career in law enforcement, his dream profession, on full scholarship.
In a flash, everything changed.
Moore and some friends were on Ozello Trail, a 9-mile winding road outside of Homosassa Springs, Florida. The route, which twists through marshes and ends at the Gulf of Mexico, is a popular ride for motorcyclists.
“The weather was perfect — clear, sunny and breezy,” said Moore, 31, of Brandon.
As he rounded a curve, Moore’s motorcycle hit a patch of sand. The bike skidded off the road and plunged into a marsh.
“As soon as my bike hit the marsh, it stuck, but I was still going 35 miles an hour,” Moore said. “My abdomen was crushed against the gas tank, my shoulder caught the handlebar and I flipped off the bike.”
His friends immediately called 911. At first, Moore didn’t think anything was wrong.
“I tried refusing to go with the EMTs — I was still running on adrenaline,” he said. “I was more upset about the motorcycle.”
But the paramedics said they couldn’t find a pulse in Moore’s left arm. His blood pressure was hard to read and dangerously low — a sign of internal bleeding. Moore was in danger of bleeding to death.
Moore was rushed to Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center in Crystal River and transferred to the UF Health Shands Trauma Center, a Level 1 trauma facility better equipped to handle the extent of Moore’s injuries. He spent several hours in surgery the night of the accident — and the morning after. He needed nearly 20 units of blood. Surgeons removed about 3 feet of his small intestine and half of his colon. He also sustained a lacerated spleen.
Moore spent about two weeks in the hospital, including four days in a medically induced coma and a week on the intensive care unit.
His surgery left him with an open stomach incision, requiring special dressings and a system that would help his wound heal from the inside out to decrease the chances of a devastating infection. His doctor told him he might need a colostomy bag.
“That was not an option. The doctor told me the only way to get my digestive tract functioning was to become active. He said my body had to know I’m alive,” Moore said, “so I was assigned a physical therapist, who helped me get out of bed and walk.”
Moore’s travel was limited from the bed to the chair and short walks down the hallway.
“I was determined not to end up on a colostomy bag,” he said.
Moore’s determination paid off, but his journey toward full recovery had only just begun.
After discharge, Moore was still connected to the wound-healing system — a continuous vacuum that drew fluid from the wound and increased blood flow to the area. Moore spent nearly 1,000 hours, about 41 days, connected to the “wound vac.” Unable to lie flat on a couch or bed, Moore was confined to a recliner “almost all day for four months.”
“Adjusting to my new digestive system was — and still is — a challenge. The simplest of foods upset my stomach on a regular basis,” he added.
His weight plunged from a muscular 267 pounds to 138.
Although the accident forced Moore to withdraw from law enforcement training, Moore took a job as a tow-truck driver as soon as he was well enough. He worked more than 80 hours a week so he could pay his tuition and expenses and last August, Moore returned to law enforcement training.
He graduated at the top of his class in January — and shared the moment with one of the surgeons who saved his life.
“Attending Kevin’s law enforcement graduation was as special for me as it was for him,” said Scott Brakenridge, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery and a member of the acute care surgery team at UF Health. “It’s not often that we as trauma surgeons get to see our patients after they’ve gotten their lives back together again.”
Moore said he is grateful for the care he received throughout his journey, from the EMTs and flight paramedics to the doctors and nurses at the hospital.
“If it wasn’t for UF Health, I wouldn’t be alive today,” he said.
Today, Moore sports a half-sleeve tattoo on his arm as a way to remember the accident and those who helped him to heal, including the Gators logo and the tail number of the helicopter that flew him to UF Health.
Life still isn’t without its challenges. Moore is on a strict diet and has to take expensive medication twice a day — and will have to do so for the rest of his life.
“I learned that I’m a lot stronger than I ever imagined. I had a lot of ‘I don’t think I can do this’ moments. But ultimately, you can do things beyond what you think you’re able,” Moore said.