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Coming Out of Coma, Then a Slam Dunk

For retired history teacher Joel White, the night that he slipped and hit his head inside his apartment seemed like a minor injury. But, five days later, White collapsed due to bleeding inside the brain.

After neighbors called 911, paramedics arrived to find White’s heart and brain had stopped. They worked quickly to revive him with an adrenaline shot and rushed him to a hospital. There, doctors placed White in a medically-induced coma to protect the brain from swelling. It was uncertain if he would recover.

But remarkably, White emerged from the coma, was placed on a ventilator and transferred to NYC Health + Hospitals/Carter, a long-term acute care hospital in Harlem. At Carter, a team of pulmonary experts, physical therapists, and a psychiatrist developed a recovery plan for White.

“When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by friends and family and a group of very wonderful medical providers who got me where I am today,” White said. “The people that work here are just extraordinary people.”

White is one of nearly 300 patients at Carter who has been weaned off a ventilator and regained the ability to breathe on his own. As the state’s only facility with a specialized 20-bed ventilator unit, Carter has become nationally known for providing high quality care to patients placed on ventilators after a debilitating injury or stroke. Doctors and nurses focus on strengthening respiratory muscles, improving nutrition, and restoring patient’s quality of life by breaking their dependency on machines.

Now completely recovered, White visits Carter often to catch up with the doctors and nurses who cared for him. On a recent visit, the outgoing 78-year-old was in such high spirits, he stopped at nearby Marcus Garvey Park and played a game of pick-up basketball with some neighborhood teens.

“I’m completely healed and still able to shoot a basket from midcourt,” he said with a happy grin.