The way Marvin White tells it, the summer of 2003 was hot, hazy and rotten for motorcycle riding. As he recalls the events of that Sunday morning, Aug. 10, he and his friends had decided to ride their motorcycles through Northwest Connecticut.
He left his house in Hamden dressed in motorcycle gear — full-faced helmet, long pants, padded jacket and new boots. A rider for all of his adult life, White was excited to break in his new Triumph motorcycle.
But the conditions were not ideal and the drizzling rain prevailed over experience causing his bike to slide as he made a right-hand turn in Rockville. White fell off the bike, slid across the divided yellow lines and was struck by an oncoming car. With no cell phone coverage, his friends ran to the nearest house and called for help.
"My boots tore open and my bike broke in two," said White. "I couldn't feel my legs."
The weather conditions were too risky for Lifestar to airlift him to the hospital so medical rescuers rushed him to Danbury Hospital where he was stabilized and treated for shock; within hours he was transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital's Trauma Center. There the trauma team began the arduous task of repairing White's shattered spine and legs which had virtually disconnected from his pelvis.
A former lieutenant with the Town of Prospect police force and manager in the department of Protective Services at Yale-New Haven Hospital, White was well-known to hospital staff. The Trauma Center's multidisciplinary team worked together to get him the care he needed.
"Marvin's injuries were dramatic and life threatening," said Lewis Kaplan, MD, director of the Surgical Intensive Care unit and Surgical Critical Care Fellowship at YNHH and the Yale School of Medicine, who led White's care team. "At least half of the patients with injuries such as his ultimately die from the injuries or complications of those injuries."
According to Dr. Kaplan, White had lost between 20—30% of all of the blood circulating in his body as a result of being struck by the car. Over the ensuing weeks he required multiple blood transfusions and surgeries and remained connected to a breathing machine, necessitating sedation and pain control.
"Throughout my hospitalization, I prayed that I'd be able to walk again," White said . "The care I received at the Yale-New Haven Trauma Center was excellent. I felt they did everything they could to keep me alive."
White's recovery was helped by years of diligent exercise: running 4-5 miles six days a week, aerobics, weight training and a healthy diet.
It took 10 months of medical care and rehabilitation for White to regain the use of his legs and less than a year after his accident to return to his post at Yale-New Haven as access systems coordinator for the department of Protective Services. In this role, White is responsible for the hospital's physical security and also serves as consultant for security for the new cancer hospital.
"Marvin's success stems from the multidisciplinary approach to care that we use at Yale-New Haven," said Dr. Kaplan, who serves as associate professor of surgery at the Yale School of Medicine. "His care merged input from nursing, respiratory therapy, nutrition, pharmacy, physical therapy, rehabilitation medicine, social service, case management, as well as trauma and orthopedic surgery."
Most days White is able to walk with the help of two canes. Although he has lost feeling in the bottom of both feet, he looks forward to returning to driving with a hand control-equipped vehicle. He spends his free time with his wife, Grace, and their two children Marvin 13, and Miles, 11 and pursuing his hobby of making electronic music.
When navigating the large, Yale-New Haven campus, White uses a wheelchair. Hospital staff — many who cared for him during his hospitalization — frequently stop and asks him how he's doing.
"My medical care was helped by so many people here," said White. "They're the people who make this hospital function. Because I was in a coma for so long I don't remember all of the people who helped me get well. To all of them I want to say, 'whatever you did, thank you.'"