Eric LeGrand Visits Team Members at Hackensack University Medical Center Who Saved his Life after Tragic Accident during Football Game   

Eric LeGrand Visits Team Members at Hackensack University Medical Center Who Saved his Life after Tragic Accident during Football Game

October 31, 2018

October 16, 2010 is a day that Eric J. LeGrand will never forget. At the time, he was a college football defensive tackle for Rutgers University. During a game against Army at MetLife Stadium, Eric suffered a severe spinal cord injury.

“I remember making that tackle and instantly I knew that something bad had happened,” said Eric LeGrand.

He was taken to the Emergency and Trauma Center at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center where doctors determined that Eric fractured his C3 and C4 cervical vertebrae and was paralyzed from the neck down.

“He spent more than three weeks at Hackensack University Medical Center, mostly in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit,” recalls Robert C. Garrett, co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “According to his health care team at Hackensack University Medical Center, Eric was very determined and very optimistic from the beginning that his spinal cord injury would not end his life. Now, eight years later, we celebrate a lesson in perseverance, courage and hope and we also celebrate Eric's progress.”

Eric has since regained movement in his shoulders and can feel sensations throughout his body. Almost eight years after his injury, Eric visited Hackensack University Medical Center and was reunited with team members, including physicians, nurses, APNs, physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists and dietitians who cared for him in the days after his life-altering injury.

“Hackensack University Medical Center is a Level II Regional Trauma Center, as designated by the state of New Jersey and the American College of Surgeons,” said Mark D. Sparta, FACHE, president, Hackensack University Medical Center and executive vice president, Population Health Hackensack Meridian Health. “The fact that Eric was taken to Bergen County's only Level II Trauma Center, and one of only 10 state-designated trauma centers, undoubtedly made an enormous difference and may very well have saved Eric's life.”

When Eric first arrived to the hospital after suffering his injury, he was seen by Saraswati Dayal, M.D., director of the Surgical Intermediate Care Unit, Division of Trauma/Surgical Critical Care and Injury Prevention, who played a critical role in his care in the first hours after his injury. Dr. Dayal performed a tracheotomy to help Eric breathe. Roy Vingan, M.D., vice chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, then operated on Eric for nine hours.

“The attitude is so much a part of recovery,” said Dr. Vingan. “If the patient comes in with the right attitude and has the support that Eric had, from his mother and his teammates, they stand the chance of recovering and living a life. Eric has shown us that anything is possible.”

Since his injury, Eric has received numerous honors and awards, including induction into the NJ Hall of Fame. Eric has also become an inspiration and a spokesperson for individuals who have suffered a spinal cord injury.

“Everyone has to go through some kind of adversity in life,” says Eric. “How you handle it ultimately defines you.”

About Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center

Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center, a 781-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, NJ, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. Founded in 1888 as the county's first hospital, it is now part of one of the largest networks in the state comprised of 33,000 team members and more than 6,500 physicians. Hackensack University Medical Center was listed as one of the top two hospitals in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report's 2018-19 Best Hospital rankings. It was also named one of the top five New York Metro Area hospitals. Hackensack University Medical Center is one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America's 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more years in a row. Becker's Hospital Review recognized Hackensack University Medical Center as one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America 2018. The medical center is one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country according to Practice Greenhealth, and received 25 Gold Seals of Approval™ by The Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence; receiving its fifth consecutive designation in 2014. Hackensack University Medical Center has created an entire campus of award-winning care, including: the John Theurer Cancer Center; the Heart & Vascular Hospital; and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women's and Children's Pavilion, which houses the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital and Donna A. Sanzari Women's Hospital, which was designed with The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® and listed on the Green Guide's list of Top 10 Green Hospitals in the U.S. Hackensack University Medical Center is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls and is Official Medical Services Provider to THE NORTHERN TRUST PGA Golf Tournament. It remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events especially the Tackle Kids Cancer Campaign providing much needed research at the Children's Cancer Institute housed at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital. To learn more, visit

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