22-year-old Is Back to Work After Harrowing Car Accident
October 06, 2022
Cassidy Vaccaro had a lot to look forward to that Easter Sunday in 2021. The 22-year-old Morganville, New Jersey resident was happily planning her future. As a medical scribe at Jersey Shore University Medical Center since 2019, she loved assisting the emergency room doctors and speaking with patients. She knew her career would be in medicine.
Unfortunately, after enjoying an Easter celebration at her aunt’s house, she was in a serious head-on collision on her way to a friend’s house. She was brought by helicopter to Jersey Shore’s surgical intensive care unit.
It Takes a Team
Cassidy sustained a traumatic brain injury with a concussion, as well as multiple bone fractures to her jaw, spine, arms, hands, legs and fingers. Her femoral artery—the main blood vessel supplying blood to the lower body—had been punctured and she was fighting for her life.
Fortunately, Jersey Shore is one of three combined Level I Adult and Level II Pediatric Trauma Centers in New Jersey. Its trauma teams cared for more than 1,700 patients in 2021. Verified trauma centers must meet the essential criteria that ensure trauma care capability and institutional performance, as outlined by the American College of Surgeon’s Committee on Trauma.
Orthopedic surgeons David Polonet, M.D., and Ryan Coyle, M.D., worked diligently to give Cassidy the best chance of recovery from the accident. While Cassidy was in a medically induced coma, Dr. Polonet surgically repaired and temporarily stabilized several fractures in each of her legs. Three days later, he surgically realigned her right hip, removed the temporary stabilization devices and permanently repaired all the remaining fractures.
Dr. Coyle performed two surgeries on both of Cassidy’s hands to fix multiple fractures and treat a post-traumatic contracture (tightening of muscle, tendons, ligaments or skin) in her right hand. “Essentially all I did was get the bones straight,” he says. “Cassidy had to do intensive hand therapy to maximize her gains.”
Nine days after arriving at Jersey Shore, Cassidy woke up with no memory of what had happened. She resolved to fight hard to recover from her injuries and go on with her life.
Cassidy’s final surgery was in June 2021 to fix a stiff knee. “Cassidy’s motivated attitude played a large part as she healed,” says Dr. Polonet.
Fortunately, Cassidy’s enthusiasm for life has always been her prime motivator. Being devoted to high-intensity fitness training, her body was in the best shape it could be that fateful day.
Cassidy spent over two weeks as an inpatient at Jersey Shore. Her daily schedule began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 6:30 p.m., and included physical, recreational, occupational and speech therapy. Afterwards, she participated in comprehensive rehabilitation for more than three months as an outpatient.
Cassidy returned to Jersey Shore in March 2022 to thank the team that helped save her life. Her gratitude is not just for their exceptional skills, but also for the kindness and compassion they demonstrated while she was recovering from her injuries.
Cassidy’s care team was impressed by her motivation and determination to regain her physical strength and cognitive abilities.
“Patients like Cassidy are why I wanted a career in medicine,” Dr. Polonet says. “Her attitude toward getting better was inspiring.”
Adds Dr. Coyle, “Cassidy’s recovery has exceeded my expectations.”
Today, Cassidy is a master’s degree student in health care delivery. She has returned to her high-intensity fitness training six days a week. She plans to become an emergency room doctor someday. “Now that I’ve been a patient in the emergency room with catastrophic injuries, my ability to understand and communicate with patients will only get better.”
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our sources: David Polonet, M.D., and Ryan Coyle, M.D.
- To make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Learn more about orthopedic care at Hackensack Meridian Health
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.