Oct 18, 2013

Update: The Story Behind Bob Newman’s Accident and Recovery

New York, NY

This is an edited collection of comments that first appeared on the Friends of Bob Newman donation page.

In late March, our friend and colleague Bob Newman was hospitalized after a traumatic head injury. He spent several days in critical condition and 18 days in a coma, but is now recovering and working hard to get back to health. We started the Friends of Bob Newman donation page to do all we can to support his recovery.

Bob’s wife Christine Curry wrote this account of his accident and injuries for the Friends of Bob Newman donation page in early April:

“On Tuesday, March 19th, Bob was in Ft. Myers, Florida, visiting his mother with our nine-year-old daughter, Ivy. He was at the pool with her, and went to retrieve her goggles. He collapsed outside the pool, and suffered severe head trauma. An ambulance was called immediately. Bob managed to call me from the ambulance to say he was going with Ivy to the hospital because he bumped his head, and that he would call when he got home to let us know he was okay. He was admitted to the Lee Memorial Hospital ICU unit. A bit later, I received a call from his mother from the hospital for insurance information and she told me the situation was worse—his brain was hemorrhaging, he had a seizure, and he fell into a coma. Bob was in critical condition for several days, and had to be put on a respirator. His condition finally stabilized, and there started to be small signs of movement and response, although ultimately he was in a coma for 18 days.

“In the meantime, much time and energy was spent trying to seek out potential facilities in the New York City area that would take a coma victim who was relying on a respirator. With the guidance and support of many parents at the Nightingale Bamford School, where Lillian and Ivy are students, and after major wrangling with insurance companies, we were able to secure a bed at Weill Cornell Presbytarian Hospital in their Neuro ICU. Bob was transported from Ft. Myers Hospital the morning of April 12th and flown to NYC in an air ambulance. He arrived around 4pm, a bit worse for the wear (the weather was awful, and the flight rough) but lucid and able to respond with his eyes and move his arms slightly. He was finally taken off the respirator, which enabled us to move him to an acute neuro-rehab facility at NYU. Bob is working hard to bring himself back to his strong self and will have to work on this for several months. His speech is improving and he is receiving a lot of physical therapy. In the meantime, in the course of our everyday lives, he is very missed by all of us. Our family appreciates the outpouring of your sentiments and encouraging words. It has been a great comfort to know that so many people love him.”

Bob was at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases from April 23-May 9, and then spent a month at the Villagecare Rehabilitation Center in downtown Manhattan. For most of that time he was unable to walk by himself, using a wheelchair and later a walker to get around. Through an intensive series of physical therapies he was able to walk using a cane by the time he went home in early June. From early June until the present, Bob has undergone a rigorous regimen of doctors, tests, and physical and swallow therapies.

In an thank you email to supporters sent out on October 18, Bob gave the following update on his recovery and rehabilitation:

“My recovery is going slowly, but continues to progress in a positive direction. The great news is that the cognizant part of my brain is A-OK (or at least as good as it ever was). I did get a couple not-so-great scores on some recent neurological tests at NYU, but the doctor kindly suggested that perhaps it was because as an art director I am “primarily a visual person.” I’ll have to remember that excuse in the future! However, it does seem that the thinking part of me has recovered very well.

“It’s the physical side of me that suffered the most damage, and that I continue to work on daily to get back into my pre-accident shape. I look a lot better on the outside than I did a few months back; most of the damage is hidden inside. There are still a lot of parts that aren’t functioning right or that are slow to recover, and I’ve been working through all kinds of therapy to try to make them better. One of the biggest problems has been that the accident left me unable to swallow food or fluids for almost six months, and I was forced to use a stomach feeding tube. Thanks to lots of swallow therapy, that tube is going to be removed in just a couple weeks.

“My days are filled with doctors and tests, as they try to discover what caused the accident and how to deal with the problems that still exist. There are many months of rehab ahead, and although there have been setbacks along the way, I’m feeling hopeful that I’ll be able to return to a good level of health and activity. The therapy, and the day-in-day-out work that I’m putting in are all speeding the day when life can return to (nearly) normal–but this has only possible with the generous help of my friends and colleagues.”

In the months since Bob’s hospitalization, friends and family, co-workers and colleagues, old and new, near and far have shown up in extraordinary numbers to show their concern. The Friends of Bob Newman public group on Facebook has been a rallying point for news and updates. And the Friends of Bob Newman donation page has raised a significant amount of much-needed financial support to help Bob and his family cover medical bills and living expenses.