Life in Chattanooga in the summer of 2008 was starting out quite nicely for
Center for Creative Arts rising senior Trent Creswell. A remarkable student,
singer, dancer, writer, and director, Trent had been accepted into the summer
program of a prestigious physical theater company and was preparing to further
his creative experience. And then… in a split second, on a sweltering summer
afternoon in June, Trent’s journey took a life-altering turn.
On that day, a bicycle trip on the North Shore ended abruptly as a speeding
Buick station wagon crossed two lanes of traffic and literally met Trent, face
to face. Had he not had quick access to the Level One Trauma Center at Erlanger,
the end of this story would have left his family devastated in grief.
At Erlanger, doctors worked quickly to try to stabilize Trent’s vital signs.
His injuries were extensive; two broken legs, broken pelvis, broken elbow, arm,
four vertebra, and jaw. But the most devastating and life threatening injuries
were to his face.
According to Trent’s mother, Jinger Wadel, plastic surgeon Dr. Mark
Brzezienski explained that Trent’s face was crushed and had been literally
"ripped off." Their initial surgical goal was to put it back in place.
Trent initially spent over eight hours in surgery while Erlanger’s trauma and
orthopedic surgeons pieced his broken body back together. He spent the first two
and a half weeks of his nearly three-month hospital stay in the Trauma Intensive
Care Unit in a medically induced coma to allow his body to begin to heal.
Dr. Larry Sargent, chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the UT
College of Medicine Chattanooga, then began the facial reconstruction process to
rebuild the bones in Trent’s face, and repair the soft-tissue injuries he
"The doctors said they have never seen anyone sustain that kind of facial
impact and survive," said Jinger.
The accident was a life-changing experience for the 17-year-old, and
according to his mother, Trent’s recovery was a "journey of spiritual
During his stay at Erlanger, it was suggested that he journal his experience
and thoughts. This exercise allowed him to not only document his journey, but it
empowered him to give voice to frustrations, fears and hopes, as he faced an
Trent’s recovery has been remarkable. After his stay at Erlanger, he began
walking in six weeks, there was no lingering brain damage, and he was able to go
back to school after missing the first two weeks of his senior year.
Because Trent had a helmet on while he was riding his bike, the remarkable
grace of God, and the expertise of the healthcare professionals at Erlanger,
Trent has defied the odds and is now back on the road to pursuing his art.
Excerpts from his journal were entered in the National Foundation for
Advancement in the Arts (NFAA) YoungArts competition. He was chosen in the top
140 artists in the country from over 6000 entries and was awarded a week-long
YoungARTS trip to Miami for workshops and classes. As a result of his week
there, he was awarded a silver medal and along with 39 other winners will go to
New York in April ‘09 for a week of intensive work at the Baryshnikov Center. He
has also been nominated by the NFAA as one of twenty Presidential Scholars in
the Arts. Should he win this honor, his work would hang in the Smithsonian
"It is truly amazing that so much good has come from this accident," said
Jinger. "Erlanger saved our son’s life and gave him back his