“Eye-opening.” “Life-defining.” Although their accidents were different and nearly 16 years apart, Andrew and Jacques similarly describe the life-altering experiences that led them to the orthopedic trauma team at Morristown Medical Center.
Sixteen years ago, Jacques broke his left leg while bird-watching at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County. In April of 2018, Andrew broke his forearm, thigh and lower leg bone, and suffered from multiple internal injuries when a 15-passenger van on Route 206 in Sussex County hit his car head-on.
These injuries are just a few of the type seen every day by the orthopedic trauma surgery team at Morristown. “We treat bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons from the fingertips to the shoulders, to the spine, to the pelvis, to the lower extremities,” says Richard Schenk, MD, director of orthopedic trauma. “We are trained to treat isolated complex injuries to multiple injuries that can be a combination of orthopedic and non-orthopedic injuries. We coordinate care with other specialties to maximize the patient’s functional outcome.”
In the case of Andrew, orthopedic trauma surgeon Craig Wright, MD, was part of the trauma team that treated the car crash victim. “He had some major internal injuries that required immediate attention,” says Dr. Wright. “We stabilized the broken bones temporarily before the general surgery team worked to save his life in the operating room.”
Patients with musculoskeletal injuries are seen in a dedicated orthopedic trauma room where severe injuries can be evaluated and treated promptly. “There’s been tremendous revolution in the treatment and management of trauma patients,” says Dr. Schenk. “We’re seeing more complicated injuries than we’ve seen in the past.”
Jacques has vivid memories of his accident. “About two hours into my hike, I came across a Canada goose sitting on her eggs,” he says. “Out of nowhere, the male protecting the female divebombed me. I slipped into the marsh; my left leg got stuck and did something it’s absolutely not supposed to do.” After calling 911, Jacques, unable to walk, dragged himself along the path amidst the dense foliage. Miraculously, a police officer heard Jacques yelling and came to his rescue.
Andrew says the only thing he remembers about his accident is the date, April 12, and time, 6:14am. After several months in the hospital and in rehab, Andrew spoke to the police detective who was on the scene of the crash. “I don’t remember much. The officer told me he held my head stable for about 45 minutes, and we talked while they cut me out of the car. You go about your day-to-day business, and it can change literally in the blink of an eye.”