The scar stretches from his neck to his belly button, a vivid reminder of that day in January 2013 when Ed Wasilewski skated just about as close to death as one can – and still survive.
Wasilewski, 31, of Erieville had been riding his long board along Route 20 between Cazenovia and Morrisville. It was the end of a spring-like day in the middle of winter. Dusk was turning to dark along the rural stretch of asphalt. Then, a truck turned onto the road.
“He turned right in front of me, and I ran right into him,” says Wasilewski, who does not remember the crash, or anything else that entire month. “I’ve been told that the frame of the truck was dented.”
The collision left Wasilewski with eight broken ribs, a broken pelvis and a broken shoulder blade. His spleen ruptured. One lung was punctured. And – mercifully not until he arrived at Upstate University Hospital – he began bleeding from a tear in his aorta, the primary artery that keeps blood circulating through the body.
Wasilewski’s situation illustrates how Central New York depends on Upstate’s trauma center, which recently earned national “verification” from the American College of Surgeons for its adult and pediatric trauma services. Trauma specialists are on duty around the clock to care for people who are severely hurt, some of whom, like Wasilewski, arrive by helicopter.
Each of Wasilewski’s injuries required urgent repair. He remained in a coma for almost three weeks, during which time he underwent 18 surgeries. He was out of work for a year, recovering.
“I think somebody was looking out for me,” he says. “I think somebody knew that my Mom wouldn’t be around for very long, and my Dad wouldn’t be able to handle both of us being gone.”
His mother succumbed to cancer in the months after Wasilewski’s crash.
Now he’s back to work as a welder who also does heating and air conditioning duct work. He is also back on the long board. He says it’s what keeps him sane. Friends gave him a vibrant green sweatshirt so he will be more visible. The crash left him safety-oriented and cautious of cars — and grateful for a nationally-verified trauma center.