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February 2, 2015


Surviving The Impossible

Imagine waking up from a coma in a hospital bed and realizing that your connected to three life support machines, unable to eat or speak and the entire left side of your body is paralyzed.

This was the situation I found myself in after my car was broadsided by a stolen vehicle traveling at 80 mph. I suffered a traumatic brain injury, three heart attacks and whiplash so severe my head and neck were twisted to one side and stuck in that disturbing position.

The prognosis for my recovery was not good. The doctor told my family, "His body and head has suffered massive trauma. I'm sorry to say this but, he'll be lucky to survive the next 48 hours."

As distressed as my family was at the news of the accident (and the sight of my mangled body) the one thing that had been holding them together was hope; the hope that with the proper medical attention, I could and would recover from this catastrophe. The doctor's prognosis hit them like a sledgehammer, demolishing any hope. The reality of my death touched each of them deeply.

For the next two days, my parents and siblings kept vigil outside my room. They were in a daze and could barely eat or sleep. The doctor's declaration of my impending demise weighed heavy on their hearts. Yet with each passing hour they became slightly more hopeful that my chances of survival were a little bit better.

After the dreaded 48 hours passed, and I was still clinging to life, they felt somewhat relieved. Maybe the doctor had made a mistake. After all, doctors aren't infallible. Bit by bit, hope began to return to them. But they still had no idea what the future held for me.

The neurologist, met with them to give his prognosis.

"Joseph has suffered a traumatic brain injury and is in what I consider to be a light coma," he explained. "His chances of coming out of the coma are pretty good, but I doubt he will ever make a full recovery. He will have many severe limitations. But, with any head injury, it's difficult to know how much or how little any patient will recover."

I was in a coma for three weeks and stuck in bed for over three months. I spent 7 months in 3 different hospitals trying to recover not only from those injuries but some additional ones caused by the neglect in the first hospital, namely advanced pneumonia and severe bed sores.

Consequently, I had to slowly re-build my body through physical therapy. Due to the head injury and the medications I was on, I couldn't sit upright without getting dizzy. The physical therapist would come to my room each day and raise the adjustable bed upright for a few minutes at a time. Once I conquered that task, we worked on standing, walking with a walker and eventually walking on my own. It was a long, tedious process.

My vocal cords and epiglottis were paralyzed. Therefore, I was unable to speak or eat. Luckily for me, that hardship was only temporary. When they began working, albeit slowly, I was able to start eating again. I had to start with the basics, like a child. Soft foods such as pudding or yogurt and work my way up to solid food. Once my vocal cords started functioning again, I was also able to begin speech therapy.

I was truly blessed to have someone from my family with me every day. My mother and my sister were with me daily. My brother stayed with me every night until 8 p.m. My parents also hired a private duty nurse to stay with me from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. After the disastrous neglect at the first hospital, my family wanted to ensure I had twenty-four hour coverage and was properly cared for.

Throughout my 7 month journey, I endured hospital neglect, incompetence, frustrations and the feeling of wanting to give up. I kept pushing myself, all the while dreaming of the life I wanted.

It is now 26 years later and I'm happy to say I'm almost fully recovered. I was able to go back to my profession as a CPA, although the doctors had their doubts I would ever function at that capacity.

The one physical issue I still deal with is the pain and stiffness in my neck. I suffer from osteoarthritis which has actually improved since the accident. I attribute this to chiropractic treatments and Bikram yoga.

I've detailed that experience in my book titled, "Miracle on 91st Street" available on Amazon or through my website, http://www.miracleon91st.com/

This book or my survival would not have been possible if not for The West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department. To show my gratitude, a portion of my profits from the sale of this book will be donated to them.

--- Copyright © 2014 Joseph Parenti

Joseph Parenti is a CPA, and creator of the website Miracleon91st.com. Joseph is also committed to living a healthy lifestyle and passionate about motivating others to do the same. Joseph enjoys working out, practicing Bikram yoga, dancing and living life to the fullest. He lives in Long Island, New York. See his website, Miracleon91st.com or you can follow him on his Facebook page, Miracle on 91st Street, and on his blog at blog.miracleon91st.com

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