Cooper patient, staff recall medical miracle

CAMDEN - July 31, 2011

Two years ago to the day - July 31, 2009 - at around 12:30 a.m., Tori left Cooper University Hospital where she worked as an intern and ended up in a horrific car accident.

She suffered five broken ribs, a broken leg, and a severe rupture in the main artery of her heart.

Tori was losing all her blood and had no pulse when paramedics extricated her from her burning car. She was transported via helicopter on life support back to Cooper.

85% of patients who suffer from a rupture of the main heart artery die, but Tori was one of the lucky ones.

"Thanks to their skill and knowledge at Cooper Trauma, doctors and RNs and a prayer from my family and friends, even strangers, I'm here, I'm alive," Tori said.

Tori spent five weeks in the trauma intensive care unit and her condition was uncertain for most of the time.

Trauma surgeon Dr. Cynthia Fusco recalled holding Tori's heart in her hand, physically pumping it as it stopped beating twice during surgery.

Her chest had to remain open with her heart exposed for more than a week to allow the vessel time to heal properly. But after more surgery and even several infections and lung problems, Tori pulled through.

"Something like this always greatly affects you and I just realized how important it is to have other people and a whole team behind you and helping and I'm sure a little bit of help from above, too," Dr. Fusco said.

Tori's parent's, who were by their daughter's side while staying at the Ronald McDonald House next door, say there were also many others that played some role in helping them. That is why, today, they wanted to throw a banquet for the entire Trauma Unit staff at Cooper.

"The process just fell all the way along and Cooper did a fantastic job and we just want to thank everybody," Tori's father John said.

There are not too many people that get a second chance at life and Tori Shendock knows that.

What happened at Cooper, for all intents and purposes, changed her life and in particular, her outlook on life.

"You just never know, makes me love a little bit stronger, and makes me not take anything for granted," Tori said.

It changed her doctor, too.

"It just also makes you realize how precious life is and I felt honored that she is here with us," Dr. Fusco said.

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