Suffolk Police Officer Timothy Thrane stood up from his wheelchair Thursday to thunderous applause from his brothers in blue as he exited a Port Jefferson rehabilitation center after six days of treatment — a recovery from critical injuries that his family and medical staff called a "miracle."
Thrane, 35, who was struck by an allegedly drunken driver in Yaphank last month while investigating a traffic accident, said he was looking forward to celebrating Christmas at home in Mastic with his wife and three children, ages 3, 5 and 11.
"This is what I’ve been wanting since I woke up" from a coma, Thrane said as he left St. Charles Hospital and Rehabilitation Center. "I’ve wanted to go home. It’s amazing. I couldn’t wait for this day."
Janelle Thrane, the officer’s wife, said it’s a "miracle" that her husband, who was in a medically induced coma less than two weeks ago, is ready to complete his recovery at home.
"I wouldn’t have expected anything less given how strong he is and everything he’s gone through," she said.
Thrane was directing traffic and laying road flares just after midnight on Nov. 3 at the site of a crash in Yaphank when a Chevrolet pickup driven by William Petersohn, 38, of Mastic, crashed into the back of a GMC Yukon parked nearby, police said. The impact from the crash caused the Yukon to fishtail and spin into Thrane.
He fractured his skull, suffering an epidural hematoma — an artery ripped on the inside of his skull, filling blood into his brain — that could have been fatal if not for treatment at the scene by Ridge firefighters and aviation paramedics, doctors said.
Thrane, who was rushed into brain surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital, also broke his arm, ripped all the ligaments in his neck, broke his hand and tore the ligaments in his knee after being struck by the GMC, said Dr. James Vosswinkel, chief of trauma surgery at Stony Brook.
The officer also experienced inflammation throughout his body and became critically ill with adult respiratory distress syndrome, in which his body’s immune system attacked his lungs, making it difficult to use a ventilator to keep him breathing and requiring a tracheostomy through his neck, Vosswinkel said last week.
After spending nearly four weeks in a medically induced coma, Thrane made a full neurological recovery and was released from the hospital Dec. 3 to boisterous cheers from hundreds of fellow officers.
But while Thrane left Stony Brook on a stretcher, he exited St. Charles Thursday on his own two feet, emerging from a wheelchair to greet rehabilitation center staff and Suffolk police.
"When I woke up not that long ago, I couldn’t even get out of bed," Thrane said. "I said that every day I am going to make a little bit of improvement somehow."
Acting Suffolk Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron said Thrane’s rapid recovery "shows incredible determination both to be a father and be back with family, but also to be back at work."
Thrane’s physical and occupational therapists said the officer put in hours of difficult work every day, improving his strength and endurance and relearning basic tasks such as walking, putting on a shirt and brushing his teeth.
"We pushed him really hard and he put in a lot of hard work," said physical therapist Lindsay Aponte. "But he fought so hard and it’s definitely a miracle how much he’s progressed."
Occupational therapist Juan Florez added that "since day one, he was always trying to push and go to the limit and learn the information to become as independent as possible. It’s a key factor to why he’s doing as well as he’s doing."
Thrane will still require at-home care to recover from injuries to his left arm, shoulder and knee and to improve his endurance, facility staff said.
Petersohn, who was also injured, pleaded not guilty last month to a misdemeanor charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. He’s due back in court Dec. 22.
A police motorcade escorted Thrane home Thursday, where he was greeted with hugs from his children, relatives, friends, neighbors and officers. A large sign on the lawn read, "Welcome home daddy," and featured pictures of Thrane and his family.
Thrane then gave a final wave to the crowd and walked into his home for the first time in more than five weeks.