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In Good Hands

Tanner was playing in his bedroom when he leaned against the window screen. After that, his memory gets fuzzy. But for his mother Courtney Coghlan, from the moment Tanner plummeted from the second floor of their house to the street below, life revved into full focus.

Gravely injured, Tanner was rushed to the local hospital in San Rafael, the closest one to their San Anselmo home. Staff took one look at the first grader and put him in an ambulance headed to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland — the Bay Area’s only Level 1 pediatric trauma center.

“The moment we arrived I knew my son was in good hands – I call it mother’s intuition,” says Courtney, a third-grade teacher. “The doctor immediately told me, ‘You’re going to be here for a while, and we will take good care of you.’”

A long and trying night at the hospital followed, with Tanner undergoing three major surgeries. He had two broken arms, one a compound fracture. Worse, his skull was fractured, so doctors had to keep a close watch for signs of swelling in his brain. Because of his head injury, Tanner had to endure surgery without full anesthesia.

“We got through it by connecting with people — staff and other parents,” Courtney says. “Tanner was brave; I think I cried more than he did. But knowing we were all in it together helped me.”

It’s now been more than two years since Tanner’s accident. What stands out most for Courtney about her time at UCSF Benioff Oakland is not the expert care her son received, but the experience of the little boy in the bed next to him.

The boy’s appendectomy had resulted in an infection, and his single mother confided in Courtney about her financial concerns – they had no health insurance. But the boy, Courtney recalls, received exceptional care regardless.

“I realized how amazing it is that Children’s doesn’t turn anyone away, that every kid is treated the same, no matter what,” Courtney says. “As a teacher, I work with kids at their very best,” she says. “I take my hat off to these people who work with kids at their very worst.”