Against All Odds

July 3, 2018

Jackson Township student walks away from car accident — unknowingly with life-threatening injuries.

Steven Jensen, then 18, was driving to a friend’s house one evening when he hit a patch of black ice and crashed into a tree. Miraculously, Steven walked away from the accident. Shocked and not recognizing the severity of the incident, he refused medical care and went home. But his condition quickly got worse, and within a few hours, his parents rushed him to a local hospital. When imaging tests revealed multiple extensive injuries, Steven was transferred to Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

A TEST OF EXPERTISE

A designated Level II Trauma Center with a state-of-the-art Intensive Care Unit, Jersey Shore offers 24-hour care and treatment for some of the most severe trauma patients. Even so, Steven’s case proved challenging.

“Steven had multiple life-threatening injuries, including a ruptured aorta, a broken spine and a severed small intestine,” recalls Paul Bauer, M.D., trauma surgeon at Jersey Shore. Due to the rare location, severity and complexity of the injuries, “It was vital to carefully plan the sequence and timing of his treatment,” says Dr. Bauer.

SEAMLESS COLLABORATION

Dr. Bauer called on the expertise of Nasir Khan, M.D., vascular surgeon and section chief of Vascular Surgery at Jersey Shore, who rushed from his office to treat Steven. Together, the two worked through the night to save Steven’s life.

Dr. Bauer first stopped the contamination and internal bleeding from Steven’s small intestine by surgically removing two damaged sections and joining the healthy tissue. Using minimally invasive techniques, Dr. Khan then surgically placed a stent graft in Steven’s ruptured aorta, redirecting blood flow and preventing fatal blood loss.

“Steven’s injury caused a false aortic aneurysm. Blood had seeped into the soft tissue surrounding the artery, creating an unstable capsule of blood,” explains Dr. Khan. “Without treatment, it was a matter of time until the aneurysm burst, which could have caused sudden death.”

With Steven stabilized from his first two surgeries, Dr. Bauer then called on Michael Lospinuso, M.D., MBA, FACS, orthopedic surgeon and section chief of Spine Surgery at Jersey Shore. “Steven’s spine was completely broken. The top of his chest was separated from his lower back, and the spinal cord was exposed,” explains Dr. Lospinuso. “It was amazing he had survived this catastrophic event so far.”

Dr. Lospinuso placed a series of rods and screws at strategic points to reconnect Steven’s spine. He then used a microscope to meticulously close Steven’s spinal cord.

MIRACLE RECOVERY

Steven woke up in the Intensive Care Unit on his 19th birthday. He had successfully undergone multiple surgeries and was recovering rapidly. In fact, Steven was well enough to return home after a little more than a week in the hospital.

“When an emergency happens so quickly, you need blind faith that your child is in good hands,” says Steven’s mom, Carolyn. “We could not have asked for a better team of professionals.”

Today, Steven is continuing to recover at home, is able to care for himself and is slowly getting stronger. He plans to go back to work soon to save money for a car and enroll in college classes again in the fall.

“The accident changed my whole perspective on life. I focus on what really matters and make the most of every day. It has made me mentally stronger and gave me wisdom that I will carry with me throughout my life,” says Steven.

He adds, “I am so immensely grateful to the professionals whose expertise helped me continue my journey through life and to everyone who took care of me through this traumatic event.”

This story was featured in the July/August issue of HealthViews. Click here to view the whole issue.