A dry eye was hard to find in the crowded auditorium of George Washington University (GW) Hospital on Trauma Survivors' Day — the stories patients told about the care they received and the battles they fought to overcome serious injuries were both heartrending and inspiring.
“This is one of my most favorite days that we celebrate here at GW,” GW Hospital CEO Kim Russo, M.B.A., M.S., said at the 5th annual event. “Thank you all for being here as we celebrate the individuals who have overcome some of life’s toughest challenges. … Today is really all about you, celebrating you.”
Anton Sidawy, M.D., M.P.H. '99, Lewis B. Saltz Chair and Professor of Surgery at the GW School of Medicine and Health Science (SMHS) and president of the GW Medical Faculty Associates, spoke of how GW Hospital put itself on the map for trauma care in the Washington, D.C. region and how trauma is really the “crown jewel” of what doctors do.
“There is no department that is not involved in the care of a severely injured trauma patient,” added Babak Sarani, M.D., FACS, FCCM, chief of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at GW Hospital and associate professor of surgery at SMHS. “Every specialty… has to come together with a collective goal of retuning someone to their home and returning someone to their loved ones.”
Seven GW trauma patients spoke next. While each case and each individual was unique, one message echoed throughout their stories: the amount of appreciation they had for the care they received and the support from their loved ones.
Larry Toye arrived at GW on July 6 after having been involved in a car crash. Six of his ribs were broken in two places, he suffered a punctured lung, a tear in his diaphragm, a shattered spleen, a torn kidney, a damaged liver, and a partially crushed pancreas.
“I’m so grateful for the service GW gave me, the chance to be here again,” he said, holding back tears. “If it weren’t for [the doctors], I wouldn’t be here. They took such good care of me; I never felt pain in the time I was here.”
He added that he’s not back at work yet, but is “working on it”; he joked that he’s tired of TV and by now has seen every show there is.
Also in attendance at the event was Samuel Young, who suffered a broken neck and a spinal cord injury after a fall from a great height. The day after his surgery, Young said, he asked if he would be able to walk again, only to find out the chance was low.
But Young was determined to get better, transferring to Atlanta for physical and occupational therapy, and then about a week ago moving to Baltimore for continued therapy.
“I’m actually starting to walk again,” he said, to loud applause from event attendees. “It’s a start, and I know my journey is still not over yet … but I wouldn’t be in the place I am without the help of GW.”
Sam Rossiello spoke last, walking up to the front of the room with ease despite having been in an accident in February that resulted in the loss of both his legs.
“I decided to wear pants not because I was trying to hide anything,” he said, explaining why he wasn’t wearing clothes that would reveal his prosthetics. “What I wanted to show is how miraculous the recovery has been. Unless someone saw me walking down stairs or on a tough hill, nobody would have any idea that anything had happened … because of all the people who cared for me here.”
There are a lot of superheroes in our society, Rossiello said. People look up to athletes or, he jokingly added, “I don’t know, Kim Kardashian.”
“I think the real heroes are the people who can give you strength when you don’t have any. The people here are the real superheroes,” he said. “Six weeks I was here [at GW], and everybody came in every day with a positive attitude; that’s not something you get at every hospital. This is a special, special place.”