Tears rolled down Raquel White’s cheeks as she listened to her father credit the grace of God for sparing his only child’s life; tears continued flowing as her surgeon described her as his miracle patient.
White, 21, a Lindenhurst resident since age 2, survived a horrific traffic accident on Sunrise Highway in Babylon last fall that knocked her unconscious and left her with multiple broken bones. The young woman’s pelvis was split apart, her bladder lacerated and her left femur broken. She required a total of 43 pints of blood, her surgeon said.
But White is on the mend in a recovery that even her surgeon says is remarkable. She has regained the ability to walk, albeit slowly and with the aid of a walker. But her medical team predicts she may ultimately run again.
White was hit by a pickup truck as she got out of her car on the passenger side Nov. 22. She exited her vehicle after hitting the center divider, which pinned the driver’s door to the wall. White’s surgeon, Dr. David Forsh, chief of orthopedic trauma at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s in Manhattan, said White was extraordinarily lucky not to be paralyzed, and even luckier to be alive.
The young woman, who had been on the track team at Lindenhurst Middle School, said the devastating injury has forced her to view her physical abilities differently — for now.
“I am taking baby steps right now,” she said softly in a medical exam room at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital and credited her rapid recovery to being an athlete.
Shy and eager to let her father tell her story, White said she had no recollection of what happened just days before last Thanksgiving. Yet, the memory of the pain and efforts to walk again, she said, remain indelible.
“I just remember waking up in the hospital,” she said of Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip where emergency medical technicians rushed her after the accident. When they arrived on the scene at the Little East Neck Road exit, the young woman was lying unconscious on the highway.
“I had an open-book pelvic fracture. That’s what it’s called,” White said, noting that she had been a criminal justice major at Farmingdale State College, but after her ordeal is strongly considering medical school. “I spent so much time just laying there that I started researching all kinds of information, about how the body works and how medicines work.”
Describing her pelvic injuries White said imagine breaking apart a wishbone — “that’s what happened to my pelvis.”
Her greatest triumph, she said, was being able to stand, a feat accomplished in March. “I was really encouraged by being able to stand. That gave me hope that I would walk.”
The young woman’s father, Curtis White, 55, picks up the rest of his daughter’s story.
“It was the worst call that any parent could ever receive,” he said, remembering a day that he describes as still vivid and chilling. He said doctors at Good Samaritan stabilized the femur and tended to her abrasions but told him the pelvic injuries were so extensive they would have to be evaluated by a doctor who specializes in pelvic trauma.
“She is my only child,” White said, “and such a beautiful, beautiful young lady. I thank God that she is here with me.”
The father said he never left his daughter’s side as she struggled within a whisper of death to regain her ability to stand and take baby steps at age 21.
Raquel White was in Good Samaritan for three weeks, her dad said, but doctors there recommended Forsh for the pelvic injuries, calling him the best surgeon in the region for patients in need of pelvic repair.
In addition to specializing in problems involving extensive pelvic trauma, Forsh also uses computer modeling to understand his patients’ injuries in multiple dimensions.
“It’s a way to construct a 3-D model from a two-dimensional CT scan,” Forsh said Wednesday as his star patient prepared to show her doctor how well she now walks with the aid of a walker. Her pelvic operation was performed in January. “You have to know exactly how and where the pelvis is broken to know how to repair it.”
With the aid of the model, Forsh was able to rotate the replica pelvis on his computer screen in a variety of angles to gain a sense of how best to approach the surgery.
“Injuries like this carry a 50 percent mortality rate, and that’s why her case was so impressive, and why she needed over 40 units of blood,” Forsh said. The surgery, which consumed six hours, used screws and plates that would help the fractured bone mend.
“The pelvis is like a pretzel and when it’s broken can split in two,” he said.
Remarkably, there were no uterine or ovarian injuries, the doctor said, which means White is able to get pregnant. “It is a miracle that this young girl is alive because one out of every two patients with this kind of injury does not make it,” he said.
Raquel White, meanwhile, said she is looking forward to returning to college, most likely in the fall. “There was a point when I couldn’t move at all,” she said. “But, oh my gosh, I feel so much better about myself.”