“I was a big cyclist. I’d go on long rides on weekends up to Harriman State Park. On this particular Saturday, I was returning from a 50 mile ride with my friends, just a few miles from home on East Saddle River Road. All of a sudden, an SUV came barreling at us head on,” said Ron.
It was November 26, the Saturday of Thanksgiving Day weekend 2011.“It was 1:06 on a Saturday afternoon and the driver had fallen fast asleep. I was doing everything right. I was riding on the right side of the road, wearing my helmet,” said Ron. “She hit my friend first, sent him flying almost into the Saddle River. Then, she hit me head on. That’s all I remember.”
Ron was transported to HackensackUMC by AirMed One. When he arrived at the Emergency Trauma Center, the team was ready. Saraswati Dayal, M.D., director, Surgical Intermediate Care Unit, Department of Trauma/Surgical Critical Care and Injury Prevention, HackensackUMC, was the trauma surgeon on call.
“Ron came to HackensackUMC suffering from a life-threatening bleeding in his abdomen and was immediately rushed into surgery,” said Dr. Dayal. “I repaired his ruptured diaphragm, removed his bleeding spleen, repaired the injury to his pancreas and packed the bleeding in the retroperitoneum. We also placed a tube into the left side of his chest. In addition, he had very significant injuries to his right leg and his spine. I didn’t know if he was going to survive the surgery, and then when he did, I didn’t know if he would survive the night.”
“They put me into an induced coma and had a long list of things to do to keep me from bleeding out – they removed my spleen, reconnected my lungs to my aorta, stabilized my spine and figured out what to do about my femur sticking right through my thigh,” explained Ron. “I don’t remember much from the almost two months there.”
After the initial surgery, Ron spent 51 days in the Intensive Care Unit. Then, he learned his life was forever changed when he was told he was now a paraplegic.
“One thing I remember is Dr. Hooman Azmi (director, division of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery and Neurotrauma at HackensackUMC) coming into my room and breaking the news that I would never walk again. Never walk again? I was 51, strong and fit and I had done nothing wrong. I think about that moment in time every day and what could I have done to avoid the accident. The investigators told me there was nothing I could have done. There simply wasn’t enough time,” recalled Ron.
Ron said he kept asking “Why me?” After he was discharged from HackensackUMC, he went to Kessler Rehabilitation for three months, then he went home. After more than a year of recovering both physically and mentally from the accident, Ron said he knew he needed to make some changes to reengage with his family and society.
“The accident changed my life completely. HackensackUMC saved my life,” said Ron. “I had a choice of rolling over and not doing anything or taking advantage of the experience I had in business and using that knowledge to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Ron turned the devastating blow that he’d never walk again into something positive. Prior to the accident, Ron worked on Wall Street. He decided to put his business sense to use, but in a different way based upon a new reality that homecare is incredibly expensive.
“When I came home from Kessler, I had nurses, therapists, home care and infusions. Shockingly, the home care insurance was done in two months. What’s the point of insurance when you want to draw upon it and it’s not there?” he said. “The agency that had been coming to my house said I could pay out of pocket – four-hour minimum, $25/hour or $100 a day – for the rest of my life. That’s why most people hire people on their own. Then, I tried to find someone on my own. But, you know nothing about these people coming into your home, there is no way to vet them. It’s a broken system.”
Ron and his wife, Betsy, started the company called LeanOnWe, a network of caregivers that people can hire privately and directly, and who have been thoroughly screened.
“With LeanOnWe, consumers can choose who comes in their home and they get to control the care without a middleman. What we’ve done is we have taken that hire on your own model and we do all the homework for you,” explained Ron. “We have met each caregiver and made sure they are someone that we’d hire for our own loved one. They must be at least 21 years of age, with a minimum of two references and at least three years of experience working as a caregiver. We also conduct a background check and fingerprint them. Then, we shoot a video and we put it all online. It’s kind of like a dating site and people love it.”
Ron credits the care he received at HackensackUMC as the catalyst for helping him to pick up the pieces of his life and move in a positive, new direction.
“They put me in a position so that I could move forward and help me do something positive with my life.
The need for home care is only going to increase and it is so expensive when you hire through an agency,” he said. “As difficult as it was for me after the accident, in so many ways the skill and the experience and the emotional support from the surgeons both before and after starting my company has been an incredible source of strength and support for me to go out there and to make a difference and to help other people.”
“Ron is truly an inspiration to all of us,” said Dr. Dayal. “His strength, will to carry on and desire to help others is very evident. Although his injuries were life altering, Ron moved forward with his life and found a way to help himself and others by establishing a valuable resource for patients to utilize after they leave the hospital. I am so proud of Ron.”
About Hackensack University Medical Center
HackensackUMC, a 775-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 the flagship hospital of Hackensack University Health Network, one of the largest health networks in the state comprised of 1,717 beds, more than 12,400 team members and nearly 3,300 credentialed physicians. HackensackUMC was listed as the number one hospital in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015-16 Best Hospital rankings - maintaining its place atop the NJ rankings since the rating system was introduced. It was also named one of the top four New York Metro Area hospitals. HackensackUMC 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. The medical center is one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country according to Practice Greenhealth, and received 24 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. HackensackUMC 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. HackensackUMC is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls and is Official Medical Services Provider to the Barclays PGA Golf Tournament. It remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events. To learn more, visit www.HackensackUMC.