It is the call every parent dreads! On August 18, 2008, just a little before midnight, the phone rings at the Stelmach house “Come quick, Adam has had an accident and he’s on his way to the hospital.”
There was a moment of stunned silence and shock, followed by a flurry of activity as Adam’s mom and dad, Alex and Jill, leapt into action and raced to Henry Mayo Hospital where their son was being transported.
“Your son is very, very sick” were the first words that the emergency room doctors said to the Stelmach family. The doctor went on to describe Adam’s life threatening injuries: severe facial fractures, a fractured vertebrae, liver and spleen damage and significant swelling of the brain.
“Is he going to live?” asked Alex Stelmach, Adam’s Dad. “We don’t know,” replied the doctor “but you should prepare yourself.”
How do you prepare yourself for your son to die at 21? That question was unfathomable just an hour before, but it was the Stelmach family’s new reality.
That terrible night began with a bunch of kids horsing around and almost ended in the tragic death of a wonderful young man.
Adam was a 21 year-old, happy-go-lucky college student who was working part time at a local restaurant. The restaurant had been holding a fundraiser for a single mom with cancer and Adam and several of his friends had volunteered to help.
At the end of the evening, Adam and his buddies were heading to their cars on top of the nearby parking structure when Adam realized he had left his cell phone behind. It was at that instant that Adam made a decision he would regret for the rest of his life. He climbed on to the stairways handrail and instead of sliding down; he slipped and plummeted to the pavement 40 feet below.
Adam spent the next three weeks in a coma in Henry Mayo’s Intensive Care Unit, followed by five more weeks of dedicated care.
“A bond was formed between Adam and his caregivers at Henry Mayo," said Jill Stelmach, Adams mom. “He wasn’t just a patient; it was as if they knew him personally. “
Upon his discharge from Henry Mayo, Adam was transferred to an acute neurological rehabilitation facility where he began intensive one-on-one neurological therapy to treat his traumatic brain injury.
To everyone’s amazement, Adam has beaten the odds and is now experiencing his “new normal.”
What makes Adams story so extraordinary was his never-ending perseverance, his desire to fight despite the pain of multiple surgeries and setbacks, and his determination to get back the four years of life he lost due to that tragic accident.
“It was because of the skilled and caring staff of Henry Mayo that Adam was able to withstand his journey to recovery and find his ‘new perfect’," said Alex. “That journey literally began the night his life was saved by the trauma team; with his first view at a new world (after a 3 week coma) thanks to folks in the ICU; with his first step out of bed thanks to the physical therapists and his first spoken word thanks to speech therapy,” he added.
Adam's recovery from his traumatic brain injury crossed many departments at Henry Mayo, including the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Respiratory, Radiology, Definitive Observation Unit, and Acute Rehabilitation Unit.
Not many people survive a forty-foot fall and get a second chance at life. But thanks to the team at Henry Mayo, Adam was given that chance. That is why every Thanksgiving, Adam and his family return to Henry Mayo where Adam gets to say "thanks" to those who helped save his life.
“I may not be able to do everything I used to, but I am back at school at CSUN and I’m even driving again,” said Adam. “I would not be here today had it not been for my family who was with me every step of the way and the people at Henry Mayo who saved my life,” he said.
“As I look back on those terrible first moments, hours, days and months, I realize how much I owe the doctors and nurses at Henry Mayo for saving my son's life,“ said Alex. “Thank goodness what began at Henry Mayo didn’t end there.”