Joseph Collura shook his head as he listened to the story of the man who had been hit by the tractor-trailer truck while crossing Fourth Avenue. This man was in a medically induced coma in the intensive care unit for two weeks and in the Hospital for five weeks. Mr. Collura had no recollection that, in fact, he was this man.
"He was in the worst condition that one could be in and still be considered alive," remembers Alex Guerrero, M.D., who was then chief surgical resident
"When the ambulance arrived, the emergency medicine and surgical staffs just descended upon him. He had an open skull fracture with pieces of bone buried in his brain, a broken collarbone and ribs, punctured lung, damaged liver and spleen, and his broken femur was poking through the skin, obviously badly fractured. He had no neurological signs of life -only a pulse, and a weak one at that."
Mr. Collura, 57, considers himself incredibly lucky that he doesn't remember a thing about the accident. He was taken immediately to the operating room where the
trauma surgery team worked for five hours to save his life. His lung was re-expanded, and a window was put into his skull, around the fracture.
Pieces of broken bone were carefully picked out of his brain tissue. A metal cage was then quickly constructed around the femur, with pins into the bone to hold it in the correct position. All this was done while treating his bleeding spleen and liver. "We were hoping for the best, but expecting the worst" said Dr. Guerrero.
Mr. Collura spent another week in NYM's intensive care unit on a ventilator before he was stable enough to breathe on his own. From that time he has smudgy memories of faces and words of care from the nurses. One thing he remembers clearly though is the feeling of devoted care he received, "There wasn't a time when I didn't feel safe when they treated me. They spoke to me, touched me, explained what was going on with my care. Their facial expressions always showed me their genuine concern, and I was so deeply touched when they visited me after I was transferred to another floor." And Mr. Collura knows about nursing; he's been a registered nurse for 35 years, 28 of those years as an intensive care nurse.
He followed an aggressive protocol of physical therapy, and within three weeks, was up and out of bed. "My physical therapists were highly skilled, educated and professional. Because of their motivation, I was able to avoid being transferred to an inpatient rehab facility. By the time I was discharged home, I was walking more than 1000 feet with a cane and could climb two flights of stairs. "
"New York Methodist is truly a healing institution. Paul Issack, M.D., my orthopedic surgeon, Bashar Fahoum, M.D., director of the surgical ICU, and Ruben Toribio, M.D., chief of trauma surgery, are not only men of science, they are humanitarians. I have not met a more caring group of physicians. New York Methodist should be proud of its entire staff."
"Everyone at NYM gave me encouragement and constant positive reinforcement. The rehabilitation staff was incredible. They created an experience that never made me feel sorry for myself, and with life-threatening injuries like mine, that is saying a lot. I will always be thankful to them."