A serendipitous reunion

OUWB alumnus saves life of classmate’s father 2,000 miles from Rochester Hills

An image of the Cervantes family with Trent Jackman

From left, Kevin Cervantes, M.D., '21, OUWB, Ben Cervantes, Liz Cervantes, and Trent Jackman, M.D., '21, OUWB. Jackman is credited with saving Ben's life recently. (Submitted photo)


icon of a calendarApril 27, 2023

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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When they graduated from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in 2021, no one could have imagined the life-or-death emergency that would one-day reunite Kevin Cervantes, M.D., and Trent Jackman, M.D.

But that’s exactly what happened in a Las Vegas hospital on Feb. 3, 2023.

Kevin Cervantes’s father, Ben Cervantes, had a life-threatening emergency.

By sheer coincidence, Trent Jackman was on duty and saved Ben’s life.

The serendipitous reunion obviously had a big impact on all involved — and shows that the OUWB community extends well beyond the bounds of southeast Michigan.

“When I noticed it was Trent who was treating my father, that’s when my stress levels went down significantly,” says Kevin. “He’s one of the smartest guys from our graduating class, and he knows what he’s doing…I felt calmer and more relaxed.”

For Trent, the unique experience served as a good reminder.

“It’s made me think of the other patients I have that I don’t have a connection with and served as a good reminder…that they have people that love them, too,” he says.

‘So thankful’

Prior to attending OUWB, Trent earned an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University.

A church mission to Mexico in the early 2010s played a big role in his decision to become a doctor.

Around the same time, Kevin Cervantes started working toward his undergraduate degree at University of California-Davis, and his parents moved to the Las Vegas area.

Kevin and Trent began medical school in 2017 as part of OUWB’s Class of 2021.

Liz Cervantes says initially she wasn’t crazy about Kevin becoming a doctor, or her other son, Christian, becoming a family medicine nurse practitioner — she worried about long hours, stress, and general quality of life.

But she was more than happy to have family in medicine when the emergency happened in February. Among many reasons, she says she was shocked when Kevin put his entire life on hold as a result of the emergency.

“I am so thankful for (Kevin),” says Liz. “He just dropped everything to help.”

‘Tearing up and freaking out’

Ben Cervantes did not feel like himself early on Feb. 3.

While sitting at a dining room table later in the day, he passed out, then started to vomit a large amount of blood.

Liz immediately called 911. She then connected via FaceTime with Kevin, who was about four hours away.

“I was tearing up and freaking out…I was all the way in California for residency and my parents are in Nevada,” he says. “I felt really helpless because the only thing I could do was tell my mom what to do.”

Liz remembers that it took paramedics exactly nine minutes to arrive. During that time, she had managed to get Ben on the floor and cradled him. Even more blood came up than before.

Concurrently, Kevin tried his best to calm his mother down and prepared to make the drive — even after a long shift and feeling sleep-deprived.

Eventually, Ben was transported to Valley Health System’s Summerlin Hospital.

Then, something happened that put the Cervantes family at relative ease.

An image of the Cervantes family at OUWB's 2021 commencement

Commencement was held outdoors for the OUWB Class of 2021. In this photo, Liz and Ben hood their son as part of the ceremony. (Photo by Andrew Dietderich)

‘Oh my gosh’

It was just another day of work for Jackman, who was on a shift at Summerlin Hospital’s emergency department. He’s in his second year of residency.

It’s a position he loves.

“I like the acuity, and the breadth (of patient encounters),” says Jackman, who adds he also likes the schedule that affords him lots of time with his wife and their two children.

As he had done many times before, Trent put his name next to an individual who was on his way in an ambulance.

The name was Cervantes. In a city of 2.5 million people, Trent says he had no reason to make the connection between the relatively common name and anyone he knew.

When Ben Cervantes arrived, Trent introduced himself and went to wrap up with a couple of other patients who were being discharged.

Suddenly, a nurse came running in and said that Ben had started vomiting blood again. Not only that, but he had quickly become confused.

Trent had Ben intubated to avoid aspirating from all of the blood. He also placed a central line IV to deliver important medications, including one to help increase his blood pressure.

Once Ben was stabilized, Jackman finally had a chance to get a patient history from Liz, who held up Kevin on FaceTime for additional help and support.

“She said ‘Here, talk to my son, he’s a physician,’” says Trent.

“She turned the phone around and I saw him and it was like ‘Oh my gosh…Cervantes…Kevin. That’s Kevin!”

The aftermath

The last time Kevin and Trent had been together in the same place at the same time was for the OUWB Class of 2021 commencement that had to be held outdoors, in one of Oakland University’s parking lots, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In hindsight, Trent says that if he knew from the beginning that Ben was Kevin’s father, he wouldn’t have taken him on as a patient — but not because of anything personal.

He referenced a lecture from Jason Wasserman, Ph.D., professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, where the topic was on the importance of not treating friends or family members.

“The ER is little bit unique in that we can’t always avoid it,” he says. “If somebody needs emergency medical care and they’re a family member or friend, I’m the one that has to be able to deliver that.”

Trent also referred the family to specialists for follow-up care.

Those specialists were able to determine a large mass had formed on Ben’s pancreas, and very acutely. This mass blocked the bile ducts that connect the liver and duodenum. The mass and blockage essentially caused acute liver failure.

Because of this, the clotting mechanisms that the liver makes are essentially gone. Further, Ben was on blood thinners at the same time, and that caused bleeding everywhere, including in his stomach and brain.

A stent was put in to return liver function, and a craniotomy helped evacuate the blood on the brain. Doctors can’t explain it, but the large mass that caused so many problems for Ben seems to have simply disappeared.

Just a few weeks ago, Ben was well enough to return home, where he continues to recover while participating in occupational and physical rehabilitation.

Ben says every day feels like a gift now, and that he has a greater appreciation for the little things.

“Just going with Kevin to the auto parts store to buy a new battery and help him put it in his car…stuff like that is giving me a lot of joy,” he says.

Kevin says he’s had similar feelings.

“A couple of years ago, I probably would have been annoyed at the battery thing and just called AAA and let them take care of it,” says Kevin. “But having my dad just teach me how to do that? That was really significant.”

It’s also taught Kevin an important lesson on slowing down.

“My entire life has been about my career, just go, go, go,” he says. “Since this happened to my dad, it forced me to put the brakes on and focus on my family. That’s what is most important.”

It’s exactly the kind of thing they thanked Trent for when they recently reconnected in a social setting.

“My brother, mom, dad, and myself all thank Trent so much for giving us these moments,” he says.

Yet despite the praise from the Cervantes family, Trent remains humble.

“More than anything, I’m happy that I was able to do my job with the training I’ve received,” says Jackman. “It could have been anyone. There’s nothing special about me…it’s modern medicine and the things we learned at OUWB being applied.”

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