Editor's Note: It has been a tough few days in Berlin and Connecticut with a lot of bad news. So I vow to publish at least one "Good News Berlin" story until Christmas. These stories will be hopeful and uplifting stories of volunteers who are doing good things or have gone through extreme circumstances to get to the other side. I hope you enjoy these stories and if you have one you think I should write, e-mail me or post a comment. This first story is nothing short of a Christmas miracle.)
For Berlin resident Sandra Cohen, she will never forget Nov. 16 12:12 when she got a phone call from her husband Staff Sgt. Ricardo Cortes on his Bluetooth. He was on his way home early from work on Route 9 North. He left work early that day saying that he was not feeling well. While talking on the phone with him he said that he had called his doctor, and wanted to go as soon as he got home. Sandra told him that she would be waiting for him at home when he arrived.
"At that moment, he started mumbling that he felt as though he was going to pass out," Sandra said. "I immediately asked him to pull over on the side of the highway and I told him that I would come find him. During that time is when his voice abruptly stopped and all I could hear was the sound of wind and the sound of an impact."
Staff Sergeant Cortes passed out behind the wheel, and his body went limp. Control of the car was obviously lost, and his car swerved in circles many times off of the road and was finally stopped after hitting three different trees. Luckily he did not hit any other car or person during the crash but each tree collapsed on top of his car where he was trapped.
When police and fire reached the scene in Cromwell, he was still trapped inside the car. Fire fighters had to cut each tree and take it off of the car. Then they had to cut and peel back the roof of the car to finally get to him. They finally took him out and airlifted him to Saint Francis hospital where he barely clung to life.
The injuries that he suffered were two collapsed lungs, 10 fractured bones on the left of his body; the ribs on the left punctured his left lung. He broke and dislocated his clavicle, suffered temporary nerve damage on the left arm, fractured his pelvis, sprained his left ankle, broke many small bones on his back near the spine, broken bones in his neck, lacerated his spleen, and rupture his bladder.
"When I couldn't reach him I called our 18 year old daughter," Sandra said. "I explained what had just happened and told her call a state trooper. All I could think was that he dropped his phone and was already home in bed. My phone rang and I pick up to a trembled voice from my daughter. She nervously explains that the state trooper identified my husband as Ricardo Cortes and he had been in a car accident.
"I immediately went numb and thinking, this can't happen to us, why would something like this happen? I pulled myself together and while on Route 9 I knew I was near when emergency response was rushing passed me. I squinted my eyes to see a little black tin can far in the distance near the woods. I jumped out of the vehicle before realizing what was going on. I remember running towards the Sentra begging for him to be alive, my mind was in a fog.
"Suddenly a state trooper grabbed me by my hoodie and tried to calm me. I explained that it was my husband. He escorted me towards the scene when I watched in horror as firemen cut the top of his car to try and pull him out. I asked the cop if he was alive and he gave me a frown and responded that no one knew. Finally they pulled him out and I managed to see him move his feet just enough to re-assure me. Lifestar was near me and the response team hustled to get him strapped and ready. I had the chance to hold his hand and talked to him for a quick moment. I got back into the car and back into the fog left to meet my husband in Hartford Hospital.
"I got another call from my daughter telling me that there was a change of plans. Lifestar needed to take him to Saint Francis I had no energy to question anyone so I went there. Once there I was escorted to a little room where my daughter and her boyfriend sat and my mother and brother in law waited. We sat and I sobbed. I still could not put two and two together. I was in my daughter’s arms trying to be strong. I looked up to see a doctor had walked into the room, my eyes zoomed towards his navy lanyard and I studied it and zoned out, he sighs deep and his words were as followed 'you have a very, very sick young man, and... I don’t know if he will walk out of this one.' I only see white. I am somewhere else until utter screams bring me back to the painful reality. The doctor puts his head down and tells us he will do anything he can to help him but he doesn’t know what will happen. My whole world came crashing down I sobbed and sobbed. I once more approached the doctor to ask if I could see my husband. 'Come with me I'm going to bring you inside the trauma room.' The doctor led us into this bright room with cables everywhere. I see my husband. Blood, scratches, I focus in and see the breathing tube and drains all in his body. I look up and see the bags of donor’s blood being pumped into his weak heart. I choked back tears and pretended to be strong. I held his hand and spoke to him.
"'Baby the kids start wrestling in two weeks. Come on you have to get up. Who’s going to do homework with our 7 and 8-year old sons? Who is going to go to the gym with our 12-year old football player? Who is going to walk down the aisle with out 15 and 18-year old daughters?'
At that point the doctor explained he had to perform a very dangerous surgery and that he might not survive it. The family was led back to the Intensive Care Unit waiting room.
The surgery went as well as could be expected but the injuries were severe and Ricardo remained on life-support oxygen breathing for him.
Another doctor had an idea to use titanium plates to cover his ribs and aid in the healing. The plates would also protect the lungs and allow the ventilator to bring more oxygen to his lungs.
"The next day they transferred him into a new bed that moved side to side in an attempt to drain the blood from his lungs," Sandra said. "I was exhausted, I didn’t know how to deal with this. The worst part is I still hadn't told all the kids. How do I explain to five kids that their dad was in a major car accident and was not guaranteed to live?
Days went by and Ricardo began waking up.
"I remember seeing his eyes open and stare at me one day, my heart jumped I had fallen in love all over again," Sandra said. "I was not going to let him go so easily, a change in our luck was coming. Rick was progressively getting better and better. In five days he was out of the ICU and into a new bedroom."
After 12 days in the hospital he was released from the hospital. Ricardo was now awake and fully responsive but he could not do more than lay straight back.
"I can say that this was the best Christmas present ever given to this family," Sandra said. "Nothing is more precious than life. I watch as my kids fight to hug and kiss Rick as if it were his last day once more. I cannot find a way to thank the response team and the doctors that saved this mans life. They did give us the most amazing holiday we could ever ask for. Also to the USA Army for coming forward to help a family in need."