Two Suffolk police officers who survived grave injuries thanks to their trauma surgeon expressed their gratitude in a way that left the doctor “completely overwhelmed” on Tuesday.
Stony Brook University Hospital chief trauma surgeon Dr. James Vosswinkel will co-captain the coin toss when the Jets play their rivals, the Indianapolis Colts, Monday night.
“This is not about me,” said Vosswinkel, who treated Det. Nicholas Guerrero, who had suffered a severe head injury after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver in 2014, and Emergency Services Section Officer Mark Collins, who was shot in the throat and hip while apprehending a suspect in 2015.
Vosswinkel, who had thought he was meeting the police for coffee, added: “It is a team here, a team that really cares about the patients — I may be the guy that’s most visible, but it’s about everybody.”
Vosswinkel thanked the officers, who had surprised him, along with several other dignitaries, at a ceremony in the hospital lobby. Among them, Police Commissioner Timothy D. Sini, Chief of Department Stuart Cameron, Stony Brook University Hospital CEO Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak and Steve Castleton, a Jets representative.
Collins said he had noticed the doctor wore a Jets T-shirt under his scrubs while sitting at Guerrero’s bedside.
After Collins was shot and brought to Stony Brook, he recognized the doctor’s voice. “I know who you are, I’m in good hands,” Collins recalled saying. “That’s the first time I fully relaxed” after being shot, he said.
Vosswinkel, a season-ticket holder, said he has been a Jets fan since his father took him to his first game when he was 3. And Vosswinkel’s office is painted the Jets colors, green and white, Castleton said.
Castleton said the Jets have honored first responders, from police to nurses to EMTs and doctors, at games for several years.
After the Jets invited the two Suffolk police officers, they immediately thought of their surgeon, and asked the commissioner if he might be included.
And so he will — along with 20 members of his team, who will run out through the tunnel onto the field, Castleton said.
“Dr. Vosswinkel is definitely the hero who stands behind the hero,” Collins said, a sentiment Sini echoed.
Saying the police have nicknamed him “Voss,” Sini said the surgeon had saved “countless lives.”
“You saved families from extreme tragedy; you saved the department from extreme tragedy,” Sini said.
Vosswinkel, who received a Jets T-shirt and cap, in turn said that while he was working in the safety of the hospital the police serve the public, often in perilous situations.
“To constantly go out and put your life on the line is very special,” he said.