Patrick’s story is an unlikely one. He’s familiar with the importance of organ and tissue donation and has a profound respect for the life-saving and life-improving ability provided by donors and donor families. After a much anticipated trip with his wife, he is proud and humbled to now call himself “recipient.”
A huge New York Giants fan, Patrick had never had the chance to see a football game in the new Meadowlands stadium. But on September 19, 2011, Patrick’s wife had tickets. “You can imagine how thrilled I was,” said AbdelMessih. “We decided to drive (about 8 hours) in my two-door hard-top convertible…which was perfect for our little trip.”
The drive up was nice and really quite uneventful but on the way back tragedy struck.
“Christie was asleep and I guess I dozed off. I remember being inches from the median wall, jerking the steering wheel but overcorrecting, which put the car into a spin. The last thing I recall was hitting the bank sideways at 75mph.”
Witnesses later said that the car rolled three times before resting on all four wheels.
A tragic situation turns to hope.
As it turned out, Christie only had a fractured sternum and Patrick…a broken tibia. “We were lucky.” With a splinted leg, Patrick was to follow-up with his local orthopedic to determine if a cast or surgery was needed.
“I made an appointment for later in the week, which gave me quite a bit of time to reflect. I thank God and the guardian angel that was looking out for us. Being privileged enough to work in the world of donation; I couldn’t help but think that if I need surgery on my leg that I might be honored enough to be the recipient of a donated tissue graft.”
Hope is reality.
“At the doctor’s office, I found out that I would receive a metal plate in my leg to set and stabilize it. But, the road to recovery was longer and tougher than I thought.”
In fact, recovery revealed other issues. Patrick could not feel his fingers and his hands were intermittently numb. With no strength in his hands he couldn’t open a bottle of water, did not have dexterity to button his shirt and worst of all couldn’t pick up his eight year old daughter.
Taking things into his own hands (and on crutches) Patrick consulted a neurologist and eventually was referred to a neurosurgeon. In February 2012, scans revealed four damaged vertebrae which were putting pressure on his spinal cord. Patrick would need a four level spinal fusion, considered major surgery.
“When the Physician’s Assistant started to explain the surgery (which consisted of a metal cage and bone grafts) I asked where they got their bone grafts. The PA explained that when people die and donate their tissue, the tissues are made into grafts for surgical use. I told him I understood that part, but specifically wanted to know which company supplied them their tissue grafts. He wasn’t sure but asked me, “Does it really matter?” I answered, “It sure does.” After deep discussion, the surgeon consented to use the company I recommended.
Patrick’s surgery was scheduled on a Thursday morning at 7am and lasted six and half hours.
“It’s been nine months since I had the four allografts transplanted into my neck. I was back at work within a week post-surgery. I have resumed all of normal activities, which include running and working out. I am able to button my shirts, open my own bottles of water, and more importantly pick up my eight year old daughter again. Thanks to my surgeon, my family, my friends and most importantly those donors who chose to donate life, I am able to return to mine.”