It was Monday, October 29th and Hurricane Sandy had just started her tear across the Northeast in earnest.
“I got the call on my cell phone around 12:30 in the morning,” says Dr. Alfred Ogden, neurosurgeon from our Spine Center. “The power was out but the ER doctors at St. Joseph’s were able to text me one or two snap shots of the officer’s CT scan. From the photos, I knew he needed surgery immediately.”
Forty two year old Wayne, New Jersey Police Officer, Robert Franco was out on a call when a huge oak tree crashed through the roof of his car. His head had been pinned against his seat back and his neck was broken. It took nearly an hour to extricate him from the car before they could rush him to nearby St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Patterson, New Jersey.
Dr. Ogden was on spine-trauma call for St. Joseph’s that night and after seeing the CT scans he knew he would need another set of hands for the surgery. He called Dr. Anthony D’Ambrosio, fellow neurosurgeon and New Jersey Affiliate.
“It was nasty out. The winds were very high,” says Dr. D’Ambrosio. “The road was eerie; there were no lights and no cars anywhere. All you could see were the reflectors in the road. There was a lot of debris, and trees were down everywhere.”
“The scariest part of the night was actually the ride in,” says Dr. Ogden. “I live in a very wooded area and there were a lot of power lines and trees down. To get out to the main highway I had to go maybe four or five different ways. I went one way and it was blocked by an empty police car with their lights on.”
Despite the storm, patient and surgeons arrived. St. Joseph’s Hospital was fully functional on back-up generators. “We had everything and everyone we needed,” says Dr. Ogden. “A lot of people have to come in for this kind of surgery. There were certain people already at the the hospital, but the instrumentation guy came in from his house and the guys that do the neurophysiological monitoring came in too. It was scary for everyone, but they all made it.”
The surgery took eight hours. With the patient stabilized and in good hands, our two neurosurgeons went home for a couple hours of sleep.
Then at 10:30 the next night, another call came in. This time the patient was a young woman who had driven into a tree that had fallen across the road. Just like Officer Franco, she had broken her neck and was at risk of becoming quadriplegic.
Amazingly, “Less than 24 hours later, we were back at St. Joe’s in the O.R. doing the same kind of case,” says Dr. D’Ambrosio.
Both patients survived their grave injuries and are both reportedly back on their feet walking and working hard in rehab, thanks to the bravery of all involved in these patients’ rescue and medical care.
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