“I remember seeing him coming toward us and saying to myself, ‘This is going to hurt.’”
In an instant Desiree Choquette of Ware found herself flying through the air over the car that hit her and landing head first onto the pavement in the middle of an intersection.
Desiree and her husband, Dan, were in Hadley driving home from a road trip last April when their Spyder Motorcycle was hit by a car.
“Dan landed on the car’s hood and traveled another 60 feet until the car finally stopped, sending him sailing through the air and into a parking lot,” says Desiree.
THEIR SPYDER DIDN’T MAKE IT
Their beloved Spyder, which has taken the couple on many adventures, was totaled. Desiree and her husband didn’t fare too well, either, and were transported to the region’s only Level I Trauma Center at Baystate Medical Center.
Desiree had 12 broken ribs, a broken collarbone, broken scapula, and multiple scrapes and bruises resulting in nerve damage to her right arm and right eye. Dan had eight broken ribs, a lacerated spleen, and multiple scrapes and bruises as well. She had two operations while in the hospital, one to repair her collarbone. They both underwent rib fixation surgery, offered exclusively in western Massachusetts by trauma surgeon Dr. Andrew Doben.
The treatment uses a combination of metal exoskeletal plates and pins to keep the ribs entirely immobile while damaged bone and tissue heal back together, resulting in reduced pain and a shorter recovery.
SAFETY GEAR A LIFESAVER
“Thankfully Dan and Desiree were wearing their helmets and safety gear, which prevented other serious injuries and allowed them to survive with excellent outcomes,” says Dr. Doben.
The couple spent two days in the intensive care unit (ICU) before being moved to a medical/surgical unit to further recover.
“We may have been in separate rooms, but we were always together thanks to the nurses on our floor. I can’t say enough about them, they really went out of their way for us. Each day they would help my husband walk down the hall to my room, where we would spend the day together. I couldn’t sleep in the bed because of my broken scapula, and slept instead in a recliner chair. The nurses would push my bed out of the way and park Dan’s recliner next to mine. They were just amazing. It made it so much easier on our sons when they would come to visit because they didn’t have to divide their time between us,” says Desiree.
IT ONLY HAPPENS TO OTHER PEOPLE
Desiree, who works in the healthcare field, knew that Baystate Medical Center was a Level I Trauma Center
“I never thought that one day I would be a trauma patient. While traveling in the ambulance to the hospital, all I was thinking in my head was, ‘This can’t be happening to me, it only happens to other people.’ It makes you feel better knowing there is a trauma center right in your own community,” says Desiree.
Once home, there were visiting nurses who would change Dan’s bandages, check his post-operative drain, and monitor the couple’s progress. For Desiree, there was physical and occupational therapy to help regain arm function, which she still can’t raise over her head. Dan also had a few visits with a physical therapist to help rebuild his strength and endurance when walking.
MONTHS OF RECUPERATION
It took the couple three months to recuperate and function on their own before returning to work in July.
“We’re still not 100 percent,” says Desiree, who had a third operation on December 12 to remove the plate from her collarbone.
Dr. Doben notes if the Choquette’s injuries weren’t managed properly and tended to immediately at a trauma center like Baystate, they could have suffered long term disability.
“Rib fractures alone have about a 60 percent mortality rate,” says Dr. Doben.
IT’S ABOUT MORE THAN SURVIVING
“We don’t want our patients just to survive. We want to get people like Dan and Desiree back to functioning as closely as possible to before their accident,” he adds.
Thankful for the care they received while in Baystate’s trauma center and afterwards for 12 days in the hospital, Desiree says she is “forever grateful for what Dr. Doben did for us.”
Today the couple is back to doing what they love and enjoy together, riding their motorcycle.
“We were a little apprehensive to get back on our new Spyder Motorcycle, but we weren’t going to let anything or anyone keep us from biking across the country,” says Desiree.
“I’d like to remind everyone to share the road with motorcyclists and to remember the motorcycle awareness motto, ‘Look Twice, Save A Life,’” she adds.