Trauma Surgery and Rehab Help Jake Recover

October 14, 2015


Jacob, or Jake as he's known to his friends, gets a kick out of seeing his orthopedic surgeon at the gym. Between sets and sweat, they trade workout tips. To regular gym rats, this scenario is nothing special. But to Jake and Daniel Chan, MD, Medical Director of the Division of Orthopaedic Trauma at Memorial Regional Hospital, it's a moment packed with meaningful irony.

On May 2, 2014, Jake, 26, was riding his motorcycle to work in Davie. It was his third day home from deployment with the Coast Guard. Without warning, a car cut him off and he flew over the top of the vehicle. It was one of the last things he remembers about the accident that left him with an unstable and life-threatening pelvic fracture, a broken and dislocated left wrist, internal bleeding and broken bones in his left foot.

Medics rushed him to Memorial Regional Hospital, where Dr. Chan performed surgery to temporarily stabilize his pelvis to prevent him from bleeding to death. Once Jake stabilized, Dr. Chan took him back to the operating room to definitively stabilize all of his fractures with internal hardware.

He spent five days in intensive care before moving to a private room, where he worked on non-weight-bearing physical therapy exercises: sitting up on his own in bed and scooting himself into a chair. A week later he was sent to Memorial Regional Hospital South to undergo full-time physical therapy.

"I was learning how to live life in a wheelchair for a little while. I worked on my bed-to-wheelchair transfers, how to use the toilet and shower, how to get in and out of the car. They taught me how get around on my own in the wheelchair with one good hand," Jake said.

Determination and Support

He returned home with a few tools to advance his rehabilitation on his own, but he also relied heavily on his family, fiancée Tija and friends. He says they played a huge role in his recovery.

"Tija quit her job to take care of me full-time while I was in the wheelchair. She took me to and from appointments, helped me get in and out of my wheelchair, helped with at-home physical therapy and kept me positive through this tough experience. Between her, my family from Washington and friends/co-workers, it was a lifesaver. I could not have done it without them," Jake said.

Jake's early determination and strong support system helped him defy medical expectations. He had been told he would spend six months in a wheelchair. In August, however, just four months after the accident, a follow-up visit to Dr. Chan revealed otherwise.

jaketestimonial"He told me just to stand up," Jake recalled. "I was balanced and pretty good on my feet for the first time standing after four months. He had me take a few steps. It was inspiring to see how far I had come."

Fit for Duty

Jake then began an aggressive rehabilitation program. He spent the next two months in physical therapy, four days a week. The two months after that involved occupational therapy. He returned to physical therapy for another two months. By then he had recovered almost full range of motion in his lower half and was able to run again — a Coast Guard requirement.

Today, Jake is fit for full-time duty on the Coast Guard's counter-narcotics team. His determination and hard work, plus the care he received from Dr. Chan and the Memorial team, made the seemingly impossible possible.

"I'm really glad that I had Dr. Chan. The care I received there [at Memorial] was unbelievable," Jake said. "There were times I didn't want to do things because it was uncomfortable, but it paid off in the end."

Jake's success is an example of how even severely injured patients can be treated effectively at Memorial Regional Hospital's Level 1 trauma center, where subspecialists are available to treat traumatic injuries, and with access to available resources, can guide patients along each step of the recovery process.