Scott has no recollection of the concrete wall. His wife, Sondra, knows only what she was told. And that, she says, is something of a fish story, with the wall growing with every telling … from eight feet, to 10 feet, to 14 feet
What’s most important is that Scott survived the wall’s collapse, partly because he was in terrific shape, partly because he received state-of-the-art, 24-hour care at Cincinnati’s University Hospital, and partly, his family believes, because of the prayers of family members and friends.
Scott, a construction worker, was working a demolition job in Cincinnati when the wall collapsed.
“From what I’ve been told, we were doing demolition on a 14-foot wall,” Scott explains. “The wall was made of cinder block, with a terra cotta facing. It was a double wall with a 12-inch void between the walls, and we were tearing it down in 6-foot sections. Unbeknownst to me, material and debris were collecting in the void between the two walls. The debris applied pressure to the front wall, forcing it to collapse. A couple of people saw it and yelled. I took off running but I fell, and the wall fell on me. But I have no memory of the specific incident. I don’t have nightmares. Doctors told me that’s a good thing. So I sleep sound.”
Scott was taken by ambulance to University Hospital, where he spent the next two weeks. For Sondra, it seemed like a lifetime. Scott, who was in a coma, suffered multiple injuries, including trauma to the front and left side of his head.
“I broke 14 bones in that accident, and believe it or not, they all set themselves perfectly,” Scott says. “I broke five of my ribs, and I know I broke a scapula and the lower part of my spine. As much as I was not blessed to have the accident, I was very blessed with the outcome.”
Indeed, doctors prepared Sondra for the worst.
“I will never forget one of the nurses, whose name was Denise,” Sondra says. “She treated me as much as she treated Scott. She picked me up when they had news I didn’t want to hear. She wouldn’t let me give up hope. And there wasn’t a lot of that one night. I had a doctor tell me he might not regain consciousness.”
Scott survived an initial period when his blood failed to clot. Then he endured, and survived, a bout of pneumonia. A member of his UC Neuroscience Institute surgical team described him as one of the most severely injured patients he had ever treated. “He was truly crushed. He had a serious head injury, his blood was not clotting, his lungs were hurt on both sides, he had blood in the chest, and he had 14 other fractures.”
In the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit, specialists monitored the pressure in Scott’s head because of a blood clot in his brain. Meanwhile, the trauma surgery team took care of his many other injuries, along with specialists in orthopedics, cardiothoracic surgery and plastic surgery.
Scott’s survival can be attributed largely to the sophisticated treatment he received at University Hospital, which has the only adult Level I Trauma Center providing specialized care for 2.4 million Tristate residents. But Scott was also fortunate that he was, in his words, “in killer shape” prior to the accident. Had the accident occurred a year or even six months earlier, he might not have had the strength to pull through.
“I honestly think God was preparing him for the accident,” Sondra says. “I had joined the Y a few years ago. Scott had never had an interest in working out with me. But in January, without my doing or saying anything, he said, ‘I think I’m going to start working out.’”
Says Scott, who was in his 40s at the time of the accident: “I would do 500 to 600 sit-ups on an exercise ball each night; I dead-lifted with dumbbells; and I took multi-vitamins and drank protein shakes. I had a rippled stomach and the whole nine yards. I had just gotten into the actual shape that I wanted to be in. I had a couple of doctors tell me it was good I was in shape.”
Two weeks after his accident, Scott was transferred from University Hospital to LifeCare Hospitals of Dayton, a long-term acute care facility, where he remained for another four weeks. He then moved to Miami Valley Hospital, where he underwent inpatient rehabilitation.
Much of that period remains a fog, but Scott does vividly remember the slow process of “waking up,” a stretch of time marked by intervals of increasing clarity.
“What was really neat, when I was in recovery, was waking up in the morning and realizing that something was different,” Scott says. “I had two or three mornings when I’d wake up and the extra part of my memory that was missing before would be there. And it was like being introduced to a good friend. It was so cool. That made it, to me, almost worth going through to be able to enjoy that again. It was something that you took for granted.”
Scott remembers one morning in particular. “While I was in therapy at Miami Valley, I would get up every morning and look at the schedule and figure out how to get through that day. Several days I’d have four to six classes and I’d have to figure out when to be ready and what to wear. One morning I woke up and I knew everything that I had to do. It was there. I knew it in my head and then I thought, this isn’t me compared to the way it was before. I have this extra brainpower and it works great. Before that, I might have had to write something down. That morning I woke up and I was fine-tuned, the way I had been.”
Today, after a long comeback, Scott has returned to the workforce and is making his contribution to society. Says Scott: “I appreciate everything that the doctors and nurses and therapists have done for me. I’d like to tell them thanks.”
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Hope Story Disclaimer – This story describes an individual patient’s experience. Because every person is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Outcomes are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.