TOLLAND, Conn. (WTNH) — Wednesday is National Trauma Survivors Day. Trauma is the number one cause of death for Americans between one- and 46-years old. The key to surviving is getting to a trauma center as quickly as possible.
12:30 a.m., January 4, 2012: while tracking down burglary suspects, East Hartford police officer Todd Lentocha was in the driver’s seat of a cruiser parked on the breakdown lane of Route 2. The vehicle was struck by a pickup truck, and he was rushed to Hartford Hospital, clinging to life.
“A guy was traveling down the breakdown lane and slammed into the back of the cruiser,” he said. “I never saw it coming.”
“My wife lived in the hospital for 30 days because as a nurse, she knew how bad my injuries were,” said Lentocha. “She didn’t think I was going to live and she didn’t want me to die alone.”
His extensive head injury damaged his brain and left him blind.
“I can’t make out details. I can’t tell your face. I can’t drive a car. I can’t read a book,” said the former officer.
“I thought if he were going to survive, that he would be severely disabled, maybe sort of a vegetative survivor, something like that where he’d be in a nursing care facility for the rest of his life, hooked up to tubes,” said Dr. Inam Kureshi.
Dr. Kureshi, Chief of Neurology at Hartford Hospital, led the surgical team who saved Lentocha’s Life.
“We go after it as if there’s a chance for something good to happen, but knowing full well the odds are against him,” said the doctor. “This is one of the few times where making all that to try to save him paid off.”
The former police officer is a now writer, publishing his first book “Officer Down, Man Up” to inspire other trauma patients.
“The message is even though bad things happen, life does go on and you only get one life, and it’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do with it,” said Lentocha.